Fort Mill’s Alivia Cleveland crosses the finish line to win her second individual state championship.

NEWBERRY – Despite cold and wet weather, the Fort Mill cross country teams were able to overcome the odds and take home a state title and runner up finish.

The Fort Mill girls team won the 5A state championship scoring 68 points edging Lexington with 76 points in the 5A state meet at the Newberry College cross-country course Saturday.

Race conditions had temperatures hovering around 40 degrees with a steady rain and wind making matters worse.

Fort Mill’s Alivia Cleveland won the race for her second consecutive state individual title coming in at 18:17 ahead of Nation Ford’s Mia Royall, who was second overall in 18:32.

“There was like a weight was lifted off me,” Cleveland said on the win. “There were people pushing me the whole time. It was definitely not an easy race.”

Cleveland said she didn’t anticipate the weather conditions to be as bad as they were.

“It was definitely a tough race,” she said. “I just gave it my all and pushed through. I was not prepared for this. But if it is going to rain, you just have to power through it. Everyone else is going through the same thing. You still have to give it your all, no matter what.”

The Jackets had three All State racers finishing in the top 15. Kaylee Rovenstine was fifth in 19:00 and Mia Zook was 14th in 19:31. Avery Moriarty was 17th in 19:41 and Sara Davis was 36th in 20:26 to round out the scoring for Fort Mill.

The Fort Mill boys finished second overall getting 76 points behind Dorman’s 62 points.

Leading the Fort Mill boys was a fifth place from Tanner Long in 16:05 and Isaac Campbell was seventh in 16:08, both getting All-State honors. Connor Demmerle was 19th in 16:25 and Luke Hunter was 22nd in 16:34. Hudson Haley rounded out the scoring in 16:34 with a 23rd place finish for Fort Mill.

Fort Mill head coach Lee Whitaker said the weather made it uncomfortable for him not knowing how things would turn out.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the work these kids put in all year,” he said. “I can tell you we are going to go ahead and book the bus to be here next year. Fort Mill isn’t going anywhere. These kids will be ready to work during track season and over the summer. They will put themselves in the mix again.”

The state championship is the fourth for the Fort Mill cross-country program and second for Whitaker following the 2021 boys state title. Whitaker is the fifth head coach in school history with multiple state championships. For the boys, Fort Mill hasn’t finished below second since 2020 having their third runner-up finish in four years to go with the 2021 state title.

For Fort Mill High, it is the school’s 33rd state athletic championship and third this fall.

For Nation Ford, the girls finished fifth with 153 points. Following Royall was Peyton MacMillan in 39th in 20:28, Haley Garcia was 40th in 20:29 and Jordyn Battle was 41st in 20:36. Megan O’Flynn rounded out the scoring for the Falcons finishing 43rd in 20:40.

The Nation Ford boys finished sixth overall with 183 points. They were led by a 10th place finish from Alex McCaskill in 16:10 earning him All-State honors. Townsend Smith was next in 24th in 16:35 and Alexander Bentley in 29th in 16:39. Chase Johnson finished 41st in 16:52 and Jacob Touchstone rounded out the scoring in 82nd in 17:40.

Mac Banks:, @fortprep

Fort Mill girls cross country – 2023 5A state champions
Nation Ford girls were led by Mia Royall, left, Peyton MacMillan, center and Jordyn Battle to finish fifth in the state championship meet.