Eagles sweep individual titles at Lower State cross country qualifier

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Beaufort High’s boys had the top three finishers, and the Eagles’ Shannon Smith claimed the girls title, but Hilton Head High swept the team titles at the Class 4A Lower State cross country qualifier Saturday in Darlington. 

Beaufort’s Nash Mills (16:42), Maxwell Davis (16:49), and Marlon Belden (16:52) were the first three runners across the line in the 5K boys race, but the Seahawks’ depth carried them to the team crown. 

With all five scoring runners finishing in the top 16, the Seahawks finished with 54 points to easily outpace runner-up AC Flora (85) and third-place Beaufort (87). Bluffton (232) was 10th in the 18-team field. The top nine teams advance to the Class 4A state championships Saturday in Camden.

Charlie Bennett (30th, 18:26) and Connor Eby (51st, 19:14) rounded out the scoring for the Eagles. 

Beaufort County runners claimed the top four places, and three local teams qualified for the state championships on the girls side.

Hilton Head High ran away with the team title, while Smith led Beaufort High to a third-place finish with a 5K time of 19:29. Bluffton finished eighth in the 14-team field to claim one of nine team berths in the state meet.

The Seahawks posted a team score of 42 points, as all five of their scoring runners finished in the top 18 overall. AC Flora was second with 101, followed by Beaufort with 124. Bluffton (189) was eighth.

Smith edged Hilton Head’s Sarah Neville (19:38) and Cynthia Gudaitis (19:51) for the individual crown, with Beaufort’s Charlize Antia (19:53) in fourth. Hilton Head’s Sarah Cooke (7th, 20:27) and Beaufort’s Anna Brown (9th, 20:46) also cracked the top 10.

The top nine teams and any individuals from non-qualifying teams who placed in the top 40 advance to the Class 4A state championships Saturday in Camden.

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