The Long Run–Orange’s Schmid wins second 3A Cross Country State Championship, Orange men finish 2nd overall
The old saying at the Masters every April is “the tournament doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday.”
At the 3A State Cross Country state championship on Saturday, the event didn’t start on the first mile.
As far as Gabriel Schmid was concerned, it started on the second. The other 166 runners didn’t find out until it was too late.
The first mile, Schmid played it easy running with the group, hanging back just a bit. When the second mile started, several months worth of training kicked in.
“The plan was to kick in and roll for the second mile,” Schmid said. “Just bang mile after mile and we did that. That’s the pace we had run all season. It was a strategy we developed. When you go into these bigger races, anything can happen. It can be totally running all out as a team and make it a full sprint, then just die around the finish line. Or it can be we run the first mile in five minutes, take the second mile in 4:55, then lay the hammer down in the final mile. You have to be prepared for either one.”
Schmid’s instincts, along with his team, proved correct once again at the Ivey Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville on Saturday.
Schmid won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A Men’s State Cross County Championship for the second year in a row, crossing the finish line at 15:14.75. The runner-up, Tyrese Cone of Croatan, came in 33 seconds behind Schmid at 15:48.42.
In his final cross country race for Orange in an NCHSAA-sanctioned event, Schmid improved on his time from last year’s state championship race. And he won by a wider margin. In 2022, Schmid completed the 3.1-mile course in 15:44.28, beating Stephen Fernetti of North Lincoln in 16 seconds.
Schmid became just the fourth runner in the history of Orange County to win back-to-back individual state championships. Orange’s Bradsher Wilkins won consecutive state crowns at the 4A level in 1997-1998. Cedar Ridge’s A.J. Tucker is the only Red Wolf to ever win a state cross country championship, winning the 2A titles in 2011 and 2012. Taylor Gilland of Chapel Hill captured the 4A championships in 2007 & 2008.
As a team, Orange had its best-ever finish in a state championship meet, finishing runner-up to defending state champion Croatan. The Panthers registered 93 points. Croatan claimed its second straight team crown with 67 points. Orange’s team of Lucas Van Mater, Alden Cathey, Myles Jermyn, Peter Musser, Nolan Hufner, and Cyrus Neal won the Mideast Regional Championship at Franklinton High School, its second regional crown in three years.
Cedar Ridge sophomore Ryan Matthews qualified for the state championships for the second consecutive year. He crossed the finish line at 17:49.52, finishing 93rd overall.
Schmid, who completed a run on Saturday night after winning his second state championship, was confident in his chances to earn another individual crown. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Schmid competed in the American Ninja Warrior while living in Longmont, Colorado in middle school. He ran in the Junior World Championships in Minneapolis and New Mexico while living in Vancouver, Washington before his family moved to Hillsborough four years ago.
Schmid now has three individual state championships overall. He also won the 3,200 meters in the 3A State Outdoor Track and Field Championships at North Carolina A&T University last May. In addition to two individual cross country regional championships, he also won two Mideast Regional titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters last May at Franklinton. He finished second in the state championships in the 1,600 meters.
“Obviously, I’ve taken running a lot farther than any of those sports,” Schmid said. “The will to be the best at something or set a goal for something that won’t come overnight. That’s what makes me tick. If I can’t have it tomorrow, then I’m going to work for it.”
Yet just two years ago, cross country wasn’t his only fall sport. He was also a men’s soccer player for Orange under head coach Palmer Bowman.
“My mom sat me down and told me I needed to choose between one or the other,” Schmid said. “I was a whole lot better at running than I was at soccer.”
At the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, Schmid broke 16-minutes for the first time. That’s when he decided to leave soccer behind.
“Coach Bowman was very supportive,” Schmid said.
Six months later, Schmid finished second in the 3,200 meters in the State Outdoor Championships.
In addition to running, Schmid also volunteers for the Efland Fire Department, where he’s frequently on call. There’s training on Thursday night. Out of the department’s 700 calls in 2022, Schmid ran 203 of them.
The entire Cedar Ridge team qualified for the women’s race. As a squad, the Red Wolves finished 12th out of 18 teams. Naomi Dyreng, the Central Carolina Conference individual champion, was the highest Red Wolf finisher, coming in 17th at 19:43.71. Junior Abigail Klaitman finished 47th (20:44.40), while freshman Kate Finnegan crossed the finish line in 113th place (22:51.32). Cedar Ridge junior Anna Peterson finished 130th (23:46.44), while freshman Safiyya Frej came in 141st (25:00.05). Another Red Wolf freshman, Samantha Quade, finished 146th. Freshman Grace Whitaker came in 148th (25:45.02).