Welsh sprints to states


Photo provided by Robert Hill – Welsh standing tall as she receives her 3rd place award at North Carolina’s 4A Cross Country State Championship.

Allison Boyd, Sports Editor

School record holder and first-place finishes in both regional and conference meets; the accolades are numerable for junior Chandler Welsh. The state championship only added to this list with an impressive third-place finish.

    “Chandler is an amazing athlete,” cross country coach Jamie Gaspari said. “She has natural talent, but more importantly; a great work ethic. We set goals each season and she works tirelessly to achieve them. She keeps getting better and better, it’s amazing to watch.”

    Months of training lead up to just 18 minutes of racing. Since Welsh hoped to compete for the state champion title, preparation was crucial. The days leading up to the meet were extremely important to get the results she had worked for.

    “I approached the meet just like any other race and did my normal routine of carb loading Thursday night, eating Cava the night before the meet, getting good sleep, and wearing my typical race day clothes,” Welsh said. 

    Maintaining a fast pace for a long distance is part of what makes cross country both unique and challenging. The state meet was no exception, plus the pressure of being the biggest meet of the season led to a stressful environment. 

    “I was super nervous for the state championship, the most nervous I have been for a meet,” Welsh said. “I went into it like any other race and my strategy was just to get out quick and run my race. The conditions were windy that day so I knew it would be beneficial to tuck in behind other girls and let them do the work. I love racing longer distances but it’s definitely hard because you’re running fast for a longer period of time. I try to go fast in the beginning then pace myself for the rest of the race and really kick the last 800 meters.”

    RJ Reynolds is unique because the final three races of the season are all run on the same course, Ivey Redmond. Located just 20 minutes from the school, athletes knew what to expect on race day. 

    “Running at Ivey Redmond sports complex for conference, regionals, and states is beneficial because I am more familiar with the course and I have a race strategy at certain point[s] that I can use to help benefit me each race,” Welsh said. 

    Not only did Welsh have an amazing season, but the whole girls team qualified for the State Championship rather than only individuals representing Reynolds.

    “I’d been to the state championship before with individuals, but this was the first time I got to experience bringing a team,” Gaspari said. “On the day, everyone was excited, but also nervous. Chandler was a favorite to win the race and that was a lot of pressure on her. My assistant coaches and I did our best to keep everyone calm. We got to the meet early so nobody had to rush. We talked about how special this moment was and to just take it all in and enjoy it. We had great support from the RJR community too. There were tons of friends and family of the team there, as well as Mr. Freeman and Mr. Beale. We had the biggest entourage of any school at the meet.”

    Overall, the day was full of emotions for Welsh and the Reynolds cross country team but the journey isn’t over for Welsh. With one more season to go, she hopes to top off her high school career with the state champion title.