Nation Ford’s Katie Pou closes in on fourth consecutive state cross country title Friday in Columbia. Photos by Rob Upton

COLUMBIA – It has been a consistent sight for the past four years, the first runner topping the hill headed to the finish line at the 5A state cross country championship has been Nation Ford’s Katie Pou. Friday was no exception.

Pou won her fourth consecutive 5A state cross country individual championship crossing the line in 18:27. She becomes the only runner in Fort Mill School District history, male or female, to win four consecutive state cross country championships. This becomes her fifth state title as well as she won one in track in 2019.

“When I first started this sport, I never expected to come this far,” she said. “Today was the icing on top and the most memorable. This year has really been tough dealing with an injury and COVID. It wasn’t a normal season. I took every race I got and cherished it.”

The University of Pennsylvania commit has been dealing with ligament issues in her ankle for most of the season. Nation Ford had the 13th spot on the starting line, which made a little traffic jam for her to overcome at the beginning of the race.

“I wasn’t feeling great coming into my race today, but its mindset over matter,” she said. “I went out there and raced positive and enjoyed every second of it. It’s not just an individual, but it’s a team sport and at the end of the day it is what we put together as a team. We just wanted to go and show that hard work we put in.”

Pou led Nation Ford to a seventh-place finish for the girl’s team. JL Mann won the 5A girl’s state title. The Nation Ford boys team finished 10th overall. Dorman won the boy’s 5A state title.

“We did great,” said Nation Ford head coach Jake Brenner. “It was our third year in a row with a top 10 finish for the girls. We had to rebuild a lot this year. I am really happy.”

Finishing behind Pou for the Falcons was Ansley Archuleta in 19th at 19:46, Mia Royall in 41st at 20:25, Madison Hager in 65th at 21:16 and Megan O’Flynn in 71st at 21:38.

The Fort Mill girls were led by Alivia Cleveland, who finished 13th in 19:27, Angel Kravitz in 16th at 19:34, Avery Moriarty in 20th at 19:50, Elise Barradale in 24th at 19:53 and Kelsey McGuire in 52nd at 20:46.

The Fort Mill girls’ and boys’ cross-country teams did very well as they both finished in the top three. The girls’ team for Fort Mill finished third and the boys team finished second.

“They had great races,” said Fort Mill co-head coach Joelle Brotemarkle. “We had a lot of PRs (personal records).”

“I was very happy,” added Fort Mill co-head coach Lee Whitaker.

The Fort Mill boys were led by Devon Sibley, who finished 13th overall, with a 16:03. Evan Wey was 16th overall in 16:09, followed by Alec Lootens in 18th at 16:10 and Jackson Dawson in 20th at 16:15. Evan Ickert rounded out the scoring for Fort Mill in 37th at 16:48.

Nation Ford boys were led by Connor O’Flynn, who finished ninth in 15:57. He was followed by Alan Dayrit in 42nd at 16:57, Mason Hayes in 55th at 17:09, Chase Johnson in 70th at 17:30 and Justin Storms in 77th at 17:51.

Mac Banks:, @fortprep

Fort Mill’s Devon Sibley nears the finish line as he led the Jackets’ boys team to a runner up finish in the state.