Warriors hit the ground running

The Weddington cross-country team returns all of their top 10 runners from last year’s state championship team and will look to Ryan Hobbs (center) to set the pace alongside (from left) Colton Jordan, Mitchell Resor, Matthew Conner, Alex Hazan, Jackson Bivens and Brandon Dalla Rose. Hannah Dockery/UCW photo

The Weddington cross-country team returns all of their top 10 runners from last year’s state championship team and will look to Ryan Hobbs (center) to set the pace alongside (from left) Colton Jordan, Mitchell Resor, Matthew Conner, Alex Hazan, Jackson Bivens and Brandon Dalla Rose. Hannah Dockery/UCW photo

Weddington senior Ryan Hobbs wasn’t feeling his best at the start of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3A cross-country championship meet on Nov. 2 last year.
Hobbs worked relentlessly all season to become the Warriors’ top runner going into the state meet. He had already proved himself at regionals where his time of 15:54 was 19 seconds ahead of Weddington’s next runner and helped secure his team a first-place finish.
But due to Hobbs’ health the day of states, his usual sub-16 pace was slowed by over 30 seconds as he finished in 16:30.84, which netted him 31st place. Though it may have been a tough blow to Hobbs’ personal goals, what happened next was quite unexpected.
Mitchell Resor stepped up and paced the Warrior team finishing in 16:19.07. Behind Resor was Brandon Dalla Rose, running in 16:26.92. Less than one second later Matthew Conner crossed the finish line (16.27.21) with Alex Hazan coming in next (16.28.37). After Hobbs finished, teammates Colton Jordan (16:38.64) and Jackson Bivens (17:20.25) scored points for the Warrior effort as well.
And though no one from Weddington finished in the top 15 – Resor placed 17th – the Weddington team came in first place and went home with the Class 3A state championship.
“I was sick the day of states and ran 30 or 40 seconds slower than my PR,” Hobbs said. “But these guys stepped up and I had confidence they could do that all along. Winning states the way we did, finishing so closely together, was a huge accomplishment for us and something we worked on all season.”
The Weddington team was the underdog in last year’s meet, competing against perennial powers Cardinal Gibbons, North Lincoln and Chapel Hill. But this year couldn’t be more different as Hobbs returns for his senior season alongside each of Weddington’s top 10 runners meaning the Warriors will undoubtedly transition from the hunter to the hunted.
NCRunners.com ranked the Warriors in their national preseason Top 100 poll and with the entire state championship team returning, expectations are high for the Warriors – a team that could become back-to-back state champs, especially with Hobbs setting the pace.
After a long summer and grueling practices training for the 2014 season, all eyes fell on the Warrior team on Aug. 23 in their first meet of the season. The Providence Invitation at McAlpine Greenway features some of the Southeast’s elite programs and Weddington would be racing alongside Providence, Cardinal Gibbons, Broughton, South View and Hilton Head, among others. They knew they had their work cut out for them in a meet that could provide a glimpse of what’s to come.
But the results were less than ideal as the Warriors struggled to finish in fourth place.
Resor set the pace, running a swift 16:19, but the 90 degree temperatures and intense humidity made the race difficult. Conner finished shortly behind Resor in 16:23 while Hazan (16:47), Hobbs (16:57), Colton Jordan (17:04) and Bivens (17:35) followed.
It wasn’t what they expected, but Hobbs and Co. are confident that the meet won’t hinder their expectations for the rest of the season.
“The whole time I was running, my mind was racing,” Hobbs said. “There was a lot of hype building up to that meet. We focused on it and talked about it all summer. We were definitely prepared – we worked all summer – but I think we let the pressure build up and get us off focus.
“We had the talent to win first. We just let the pressure build. I think it’s good that we got it out of our system early on.”
With the first-meet jitters out of their system, the Warriors are ready to blaze a path of destruction starting on Aug. 30 at the Jungle Run Night Race in Hope Mills, N.C. and they’ll look to Hobbs to set the pace both on the course and in leadership.
“Hobbs has been with us since sixth grade,” Bivens, a junior, said. “He’s always been the vocal leader of our group and he’s a big reason behind our success. We all look up to him.”
“Hobbs pushes us just as much as (coach Rick Spencer) does,” Hazan added. “He never lets up and in practice he’s always the guy challenging us to work harder and be better.”
Hobbs, who’s dedicated his high school career to training for track and cross-country, said it’s because he’s seen first-hand what hard work and dedication can accomplish. As a freshman, Hobbs competed at the Class 3A state meet and ran 17:29. The next year, he shaved over 30 seconds off his time to run in 16:53. And even though he was sick at last year’s meet, his 16:30 was still a huge improvement.
If all goes as planned, he’ll run a sub-16 to round out his senior year and hopefully lead the Warriors to a repeat title.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” Hobbs said. “I think it’s safe to say that we work harder and train harder than any team in the state. We might not have a key guy who’s naturally talented and naturally fast but we’re going to work hard every single day.
“I push these guys because I know what they’re capable of. I’ve seen how good they are and know what they can do. I want them to utilize every bit of that talent and effort.”

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Hannah Dockery

About Hannah Dockery

Hannah is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and covers sports in Union County and south Charlotte. She joined the Carolina Weekly family in September 2013 and loves the thrill of covering high school athletics. Follow her on Twitter @hannah4ucw

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