Team title meant more to Fitzsimmons

Summerville cross country runner Sydney Hazel

Bishop England's A.J. Fitzsimmons enjoyed the view from the victor's stand after being crowned the individual champion at the Class AA state cross country meet.

"It was really nice," he said of his victory earlier this month. "It felt good to stand on top of the podium and have no one above you."

But on this day, Fitzsimmons was having one of those "There's-no-I-in-team" moments. He was part of the Bishops' entourage that descended on Columbia and captured the team championship with a relatively easy 47-101 victory over Pendleton.

"Winning the team championship was a lot nicer," said Fitzsimmons, who had a winning time of 16 minutes, 32 seconds, which was 18 seconds faster than the second-place time. "If I hadn't won the individual championship, it still would have been a good day. It's a lot better to win as a team, to go back to school as a group of state champions."

Fitzsimmons is a state champion. He also is The Post and Courier's male cross country runner of the year, and heads up the All-Lowcountry team. Summerville's Sydney Hazel, who finished in third place in the girls Class AAAA meet is the female runner of the year. It marks the third straight year she has won the honor.

Fitzsimmons suffered a knee injury his sophomore year and did not compete at the state meet. Last year, he hoped for a second-place finish, but had to settle for fifth place.

"I had strep throat and half of my throat was closed off," he said. "Looking back, I guess I couldn't have asked for much more."

Fitzsimmons is one of two Bishops to make the team. The other is Kelly Toomes, who finished third in the state, individually. The other members of the team include Timothy Tyler and Josh Fitts of Wando, Bobby O'Brien and Steven Rivard of Stratford, and Allan DaPore of Academic Magnet. He repeated as the Class A individual champion.

Hazel wasn't crowned state champ this fall, but give her time. She is only a sophomore who makes progress every season.

Hannah Robinson, a senior runner from Rock Hill, won with a time of 19:03.17, while Mauldin junior Alexa Neiling was second in 19:05.34. Hazel was third in 19:08.81.

"Late in the race, I moved into second place and all of a sudden I could see Robinson," Hazel said. "All of a sudden, I felt good and got a boost of confidence. I thought I was sitting in second until the other girl caught me. But I still ran well."

Hazel knows what she has to work on to contend for the 2009 individual title.

"I definitely have to work on my miles," she said. "Distance helps me a lot. I have to work on my endurance."

Joining Hazel on the team are Taylor Stubbs, James Island; Danielle Sams, Stratford; Dabney Sampson, Madeline Fitts and Meagan Brandli of Wando; and Jeanne Stroud of Bishop England.

Tony Colizzi, who coached the state champion Bishop England boys team and the seventh-place girls team, is coach of the year.

All Lowcountry Cross Country

BOYS

A.J. Fitzsimmons, Bishop England

Timothy Tyler, Wando

Josh Fitts, Wando

Kelly Toomes, Bishop England

Bobby O'Brien, Stratford

Steven Rivard, Stratford

Allan DaPore, Academic Magnet

GIRLS

Sydney Hazel, Summerville

Taylor Stubbs, James Island

Danielle Sams, Stratford

Dabney Sampson, Wando

Madeline Fitts, Wando

Meagan Brandli, Wando

Jeanne Stroud, Bishop England

HONORABLE MENTION

Boys

John Pasierbowicz, Bishop England

Will James, Wando

Chad Lange, James Island

Carter Blackwell, Berkeley

Josh Minton, James Island

Sid Houting, Bishop England

Brandon Rabon, Stratford

Nic Bongalis, Stratford

Ethan Ruckel, Wando

Clayton Thornton, Summerville

Josh Taylor, Summerville

Daniel Grant, Berkeley

Girls

Audrey Connors, Summerville

Georgia Compton, Wando

Caitlin Williams, Stratford

Tara Hadtstein, Wando

Amy Williams, James Island

Melissa Fairey, Wando

Anya Bunao, Summerville

Danna Edu, Stratford

Jasmine Polite, Stratford

Anna Fairey, Wando

Sarah Reeves, Stratford

Raven Wamer, Woodland

Reach Philip M. Bowman at pbowman@postandcourier.com or at 937-5592.