DENVER – Lincoln Charter’s Sophia Bhalla wasn’t interested in pacing herself at the N.C. 1A cross-country championship meet.

“I (began) as fast as I could,” she said. “It ended up being the best I’ve ever ran. That strategy was worth it to get out that fast.”

Bhalla’s bolt ended with her crossing the finish line first at Beeson Park in Kernersville on Nov. 3. She covered the 5,000-meter course in 18 minutes, 53 seconds, which was 25 seconds ahead of runner-up Hannah Zenker (Franklin Academy).

Bhalla excelled on the course that was much flatter than a week earlier, when she ran 19:48 on a hilly course in Cherokee to win the 1A West regional.

“We didn’t do too much to celebrate,” she said. “I went out to dinner with my family, nothing really that big. We were all really tired by then.”

– Cliff Mehrtens