21 cross country finals A trio of Cumberland County cross country runners came away with victories recently as their conference meets were held.

It was nothing new for Morgan Dorsey of Fayetteville Academy, who for the fifth time won her conference cross country championship running for the Eagles.

In the Patriot Athletic Conference meet at South View, the Tigers’ Kodi Payne won her second consecutive girls conference title, while Westover’s Delsin Burkhart triumphed in the boys race.

Dorsey ran her race at Hugh McRae Park in Wilmington, a flat course that’s on open terrain, which allows participants to see the whole course before running it.

Dorsey, a junior, said her strategy for the race this year was the same as it’s been the previous times she ran.

She likes to stay behind the lead runners for most of the race, then let her track and field instincts kick in late and pull away for the win.

“This year, they got out a little slow and I think they wanted me to lead the race,’’ Dorsey said. “I don’t like to lead. I always feel like someone’s chasing me.’’

Dorsey, who recorded a 21:20 for the win, said her main concern is doing her best, not winning the race. “I’m not a long distance runner,’’ she said. “I can hang for three miles.’’

Payne, a senior, has been running slower than last season and didn’t have a highly successful regular season in the Patriot Athletic Conference this year.

“The girls I ran against last year were performing much better than I was, so I was worried time-wise about what I would run,’’ she said.

She was obviously familiar with the South View course where the conference meet was held, so she had her strategy planned.

“I just started out smart,’’ she said, “take the first mile slower than the rest so I could gradually speed up in the woods since we have a hill. I wanted to make sure I had energy saved up so I could go up that hill strong.’’

Her winning time was 19:23.60.

Burkhart started running track for Westover as a freshman but only tried cross country for the first time last season at the suggestion of his coach.

He’s quickly found cross country more fun than track. “You’re out running around trails on campuses or parks,’’ he said.

He had a good performance in the Jungle Run at South View earlier this year and was confident about his chances in the conference meet.

“Midway through the race is where I usually get fatigued,’’ he said. “I made sure I opened up my stride and took deep breaths so I could capitalize on the hills and turns.’’

He took the lead for good at the two-mile marker, he said, finishing in a time of 16:49.80.

Dorsey, Payne and Burkhart are all hopeful their performances in their conference meets will help boost them in regional and state competition to come.

Burkhart probably expressed the feelings of all three best, saying his main concern was staying healthy. “I put in all the necessary work through the summer and during the season to allow me to compete at the regional and state level,’’ he said.

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