As Sandhills Community College Athletic Director Aaron Denton watched the first runners approach the finish line at Saturday's Monarch Cross Country Classic he was moved by the site before his eyes.
"Seeing Daniel come down the hill out of the woods, in the lead, was an inspiring and poetic moment I'll not soon forget," he said, referring to Flyer runner Daniel Taylor during Monday's practice.
Also on Monday, Taylor was named the NJCAA Division III Cross Country Athlete of the Week. The accompanying caption on the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association web site summed up what was a milestone day for the first-year cross country program:
In just the second race in the history of Sandhills CC, freshman Daniel Taylor put his school on the map by winning the Monarch Cross Country Classic against a field of NCAA Division II and Division III schools. The native of Whispering Pines, North Carolina, won the 8K with a time of 29:21.3, finishing nine seconds faster than the runner-up. Not only did Taylor win the individual title, but his outing helped the Flyers finish second as a team.
Running on their home course, Methodist took first place in both the men's and women's races. The second place plaque was another first for Coach Jef Moody and the Flyer men who had seven runners finish in the top 17 out of the 55 runners from seven teams. Daniel Hagan (6th) and Andrew Bowen (8th) gave the Flyers three top 10 finishers.
The Sandhills women finished fourth out of eight teams in the 6K run with Karen Munoz leading the nine Lady Flyer runners with a 15th place finish.
Interestingly, Taylor was enrolled to attend Methodist and changed his plans about a week before the semester was to begin.
"My goal at the beginning was to stay with the top pack," he said of his pre-race strategy. "At the end of the first mile I realized I was there with the top three guys and had a chance. The pack broke up about two miles in and it became a two-man race. We battled it out the whole way until the end.
"At the end I heard some people asking, 'Who is Sandhills?'. "We surprised a lot of people. It was a lot of fun battling it out against Methodist."
Moody had the feeling Taylor could have run another mile or two."He was opening up," the coach said. "At practice I have to pull the reins on Daniel a lot because the big race isn't until the end of the year. I'm trying to get his teammates to go with him as long as they can because good things will happen."
One of four Flyers from the strong running program at nearby South View High School, Hagan discovered he had a gallery rooting for him.
"I was really excited to see my mom and dad, my twin sister and my little sister, and two of my best friends there," he said. "They lifted me up and got my heart beating faster.
"It doesn't matter if you are in junior college or not, if you put in the hard work and dedication, you'll be able to be up there with the big schools."
Moody was proud of the Lady Flyers and their fourth place finish. Munoz, Sofie Flores, Enya Dewars, Izzy McNeil and Sara Lindell all finished in the top half of the field of 70 runners.
"I felt like I could have done better, but I'm still proud of myself", said Munoz, a product of East Montgomery High School, who also led the team at the first meet. "I love my team. We were well-prepared."
The Flyers have almost two weeks to prepare for the Hagan Stone Cross Country Classic in Greensboro on October 7.
Men's 8K Team Results – 1.Methodist 21, 2. Sandhills CC 44, 3.Pfeiffer 85, 4. Chowan 141, 5.Bluefield State 143, 6.Fayetteville State 151, 7.William Pearce 163.
Individuals – Sandhills Results - 1.Daniel Taylor 29.21, 6.Daniel Hagan 31.12, 8. Andrew Bowen 31:29, 14. Isaiah McGilvary 32:03, 15. Chance Goodman 32:06, 16.Temaris Hailey 32:14, 17. John Grimm 32:46 23. Jaime Torres 33:57, 38. Ivan Benjume 40:21, 54. Noah Brooks 1:01:28;
Women's 6K Team Results - 1. Methodist 35, 2. Fayetteville State 66, 3. Pfeiffer 78, 4. Sandhills CC 103, 5. Salem Academy 113, 6.Bluefield State 136, 7. Chowan 166, 8. William Peace 220;
Individuals – Sandhills Results – 15. Karen Munoz 30:34, 21. Sofie Flores 32:58, 22. Enya Dewars 33:06, 24. Izzy McNeil 33:39, 27. Sara Lindell 33:50, 37. Yesica Upson 35:56, 38. Anjel Rowe36:07, 56. Caitlin Blue 43:11, Claudette Smith 45:26.