Catawba Ridge’s Sam Rich crossed the finish line to win the 4A state cross-country championship and become the school’s first state title winner. Photos by Rob Upton

COLUMBIA – Sam Rich strolled across the finish line with his fingers pointed towards the sky to claim the first ever state championship title for the Catawba Ridge Copperheads.

The second-year school made history Thursday afternoon with the junior’s state title as he crossed the finish line in 15:08 on a difficult course at the Sandhills Research Center.

 Catawba Ridge boys’ finished fifth despite having two runners fall in the race on the course, and the girls’ team finished ninth.

“You can’t go wrong with a state champion on the team,” said Copperheads’ head coach David Helms. “As a team, I feel like we fought hard.”

Rich stayed with top rival in the state, Eastside’s Spain Vaughn playing cat and mouse with him until about 600 meters left and then Rich purposely found another gear to win by five seconds.

“It was good to feed off him and not waste energy,” Rich said.

Rich admitted the course was challenging, but said he was ready for what it threw at him.

“My main goal was to get a fast time and win,” he said. “The course is harder than I thought it would be.”

While Catawba Ridge is still looking for its first team championship, Rich said he was happy to etch his name into the school’s record books as being the first individual state champion.

“It feels good,” he said. “It is an honor to be the first state champion.”

Following Rich across the finish line for Catawba Ridge was Joshua Silverman in 13th at 16:53, followed by Caden Westover in 33rd in 17:36 and Ty Massey in 49th in 18:06. Jackson Rozelle rounded out the scoring for the Copperheads in 52nd in 18:06.

Eastside boys’ team won the 4A state title with 72 points. Catawba Ridge had 115 points.

The girls’ team for Catawba Ridge was led by Maddy Mack, who finished in 31st in 21:16. She was followed by Sophia Commerford in 55th in 22:26 and Hayla Banish in 57th in 22:31. Hunter Mattes finished in 63rd for Catawba Ridge in 22:48 and Talia Gluff was in 65th in 22:56 to finish the scoring for the Copperheads.

The James Island girls’ team won the 4A state title with 67 points. Catawba Ridge had 224 points.

Mac Banks:, @fortprep

The Copperheads’ Maddy Mack nears the finish line in the 4A state championship race Thursday afternoon at the Sandhills Research Center.