KERNERSVILLE – Last year, Community School of Davidson’s Malia Ellington missed the state cross-country meet for an opportunity to train at the U.S. Olympic Center.

This year, Ellington again qualified for the meet and everyone knew she was there.

Ellington, a junior, ran to the N.C. 1A championship at the Ivey Redmon Sports Complex, covering the 5,000-meter course in 19 minutes, five seconds. She was 14 seconds ahead of runner-up Hannah Zenker (Franklin Academy).

“It was exciting because our boys and girls teams had won the regional meet the week before,” Ellington said. “We were all glad to be there. I took it out pretty fast. I got some competition in the second mile from Hannah Zenker, but I felt really good in the third mile.”

Her first thought as she crossed the finish line?

“I was just glad I was able to run a good race,” Ellington said. 

Community School of Davidson (109 points) finished third in the girls competition, behind state champion Bishop McGuinness (60 points) and Lincoln Charter (98). The Spartans’ other top finishers in the field of 126 runners were Hunter Cashion (10th place, 20:35), Marissa Lundsten (37th place, 21:59), Katie Smith (44th place, 22:08) and Vanessa Lundsten (55th place, 22:29).

Ellington, one of the nation’s top triathletes in her age group, said she improved this fall as a cross-country runner.

“I learned a lot about tactics and strategies during a race,” she said.

Ellington also credited the Spartans’ team camp during the summer at the All-American Cross Country Camp in Arden, which tested her on various Blue Ridge Mountain trails. She was quick to credit her coaches and teammates for her success, too. When the state meet was finished and the awards were headed back to Davidson, the Spartans celebrated.

“I went to get some frozen yogurt,” Ellington said, laughing. “But as a team, we pulled the bus into a Mexican restaurant to eat. It was fun to be with the whole team.”

Last spring, Ellington won N.C. 1A track championships in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter races. She set a state record of 5:01.37 in the 1,600.

• Community School of Davidson’s boys team finished sixth among 16 teams at the N.C. 1A meet. The Spartans’ top finishers were Frank Bragg (24th place, 17:43) and Zach McAfee (37th, 17:58).

• Lake Norman Charter’s boys finished sixth among 16 teams at the N.C. 3A meet. The Knights were led by Matt Panza (seventh place, 16:30), Nathan Kemper (25th place, 17:08.39) and Jordan Howlett (26th, 17:08.65).

• Lake Norman Charter’s girls were seventh in the N.C. 3A race. The Knights’ top finishers were Vicki Kohlwey (16th place, 19:59) and Raven Selden (37th, 21:01).