COLUMBIA — Academic Magnet finally got over the cross country hump Saturday at Sandhills Research Center.
The top-ranked Raptors erased the frustration of four runner-up, near misses in seven years by securing their first state championship with a dominant performance in the Class AA boys finale.
Academic Magnet’s winning score of 38 points was the lowest posted in the AA boys race since 1996, and the Raptor’s winning margin of 40 points over Waccamaw was the second highest in the same time span.
The rest of the Lowcountry story was not so stellar.
Defending AAA girls state champion James Island failed to repeat, top-ranked Bishop England finished second behind surprising Landrum in AA girls, and Wando’s bid to return to the AAAA boys throne came up short.
The area individual star was Bishop England’s Cristian Widenhouse, who repeated as the AA boys medallist.
“It’s a great feeling winning that first championship,” said second-year Academic Magnet coach Brian Johnson, whose team finished second a year ago.
“Deep down, I thought we had a team that could win it, but you never know how a team is going to perform when it matters the most. It takes a full team to win a championship and we ran as a team today.”
Academic Magnet’s convincing victory is all the more impressive considering senior Sam Butler collapsed deep into the race and ended up hobbling crossing the finish line in 89th place.
No matter. Sophomore Hayden DiBona, sophomore Kyle McGue and senior Durham Foster picked up the slack with all-state performances. DiBona finished in seventh place, McGue was ninth and Foster placed 12th.
Trace Hall set the tone for the Raptors with a fourth-place run in 16 minutes, 33 seconds. Dylan Robinson was sixth in 16:53.
“We’ve raised the bar,” said Johnson. “The kids now are invested in the idea that we can compete for championships on a yearly basis if we’re willing to put in the work that’s required.”
Widenhouse completed an outstanding career by becoming the first Bishop England boy to win more than one individual state title and the second to produce three all-state finishes. His winning time of 16:04 was the best-ever for a BE runner at state.
Wando’s did all it could in the anything-goes AAAA boys race, but it was not enough to put the Warriors back on top for the first time since 2007. Maudin prevailed by a 99-104 margin.
James Island’s girls pulled off a surprise championship with an all-underclass team last year, but this time the Trojans fell back to fourth place — 91 points behind winning Hilton Head.