Future high school cross country rivalries among runners at Weddington and Cuthbertson played out this season during middle school competition and it appears the best is yet to come.
On the boys’ side, Weddington eighth-grade runner Nate Jaster posted the fastest middle school time in the state this year and the seventh fastest time in the country while Cuthbertson eighth-grader Gage Austin posted the second-best time in the state and the 12th fastest mark nationally.
On the girls’ side, Weddington eighth-grader Emma Jones is ranked No. 1 in North Carolina while Cuthbertson seventh-grader Marissa Bosland comes in at No. 2 in the state. Cuthbertson sixth-grader Charlotte Bell had the No.3 ranked best time this past middle school season.
Jones is ranked 12th nationally after the middle school season while Bosland and Bell come in at 19th and 31st in the country, respectively. Middle school races are 3,000 meters.
Jaster, who moved to Weddington from Utah prior to this season, won seven of the nine races he entered. Austin posted four first-place finishes and five second-place finishes in the nine races he entered.
Jaster won the North Carolina Middle School Championship on Oct. 19 with a time if 9:52.80. He ran a personal best of 9:44.0 at the Union County Middle School Championships.
“Nate is a very good runner and I don’t think he knows any bounds yet,” said coach Chris Barajas. “He is a supreme talent, no question.”
Austin finished second at the middle school state championships with a 10:15.06 and he ran a personal best 9:56.6 at the Union County Middle School Championships. Austin ran cross country for the first time this past season.
“Gage is a very talented athlete,” said Cuthbertson cross country coach Kirk Walsh. “The kid is athletically special. He blew away our school record this past season. Our previous school record was 10:09. He crushed that school record in his first ever cross county season.”
Jones won the first three meets she ran, including a personal best 11:01.1 at a meet in August. She finished second at a meet in September but an injury ended the rest of her middle school season.
“Emma Jones is totally self-driven and we are looking forward for her to be ready for track,” Barajas said. “I’m sure she could be in the mid-10s (cross country), which is pretty darn good for her age group.”
Bosland finished second in her first two races of the middle school season and she then won her final six races, including the state middle school championship. She has a personal best time of 11:05.6. She also plays soccer in the fall and spring.
“Marissa is a serious athlete that likes to play anything she can,” Walsh said. “She is a unique talent. She won the middle school championship and she is only in the seventh grade. She can’t get enough of it. She races whenever she can.”
Bell finished second at the state middle school championships and she had one first-place finish during the middle school season.
“She ran an 11:15 this year and that was the fastest sixth grader in school history, including the boys,” Walsh said.
Jaster, Austin, Bosland and Bell will all compete in the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships on Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida.