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Lady Bulldog harriers head to state meet
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CHS FRESHMAN HEATHER WOOLARD, shown here in an previous meet this year, helped the Lady Bulldogs clinch a spot in Saturdays AAA state meet by finishing 19th in the AAA Mid-State qualifier. - photo by C-I photo by Tom Didato

There were better days to run 3.1 miles than this past Saturday.

There was no better feeling, however, than finishing that race and knowing that you have another date to hit the trails.

For the second time in as many years, the Camden High School girls’ cross country team is headed to the AAA state championship meet. Running in the wind, rain, sleet and frigid temperatures last Saturday at Clemson’s Sandhills Research facility course in Columbia, the Lady Bulldogs took the fifth and final qualifying spot in the AAA Mid-State qualifier.

For Pam Chickering’s runners, though, the final moments to see if they would be heading to this Saturday’s state championship meet were a bit unnerving, if not downright chilly.

"I told the girls I had bad news and good news, and which one did they want first," Chickering said of breaking the news to her team as to their status for the state meet.

"They said the bad news, so I told them we were running this week, which meant we were going to state. They were yelling and screaming in excitement as they were huddled up in blankets and around each other to stay warm. However, it was close watching the girls on the course."

By Chickering and her coaching staff’s calculations, the Lady Bulldogs were in but Gilbert was still close for the fifth automatic qualifier. In the end, CHS had 122 points to Gilbert’s 140.

All five of Camden’s runners, whose times counted in the meet, finished in the top 34 with the top three Lady Bulldogs following each other to the finish in the 18th through 20th spots.

Freshman Stephanie Areford led the CHS trio placing 18th overall with a time of 22:03. Classmate Heather Woolard was 19th in a time of 22:23 while another freshman, Megan Goodrich, was 20th at 22:41. "Having Steph, Heather, and Megan finishing after each other helped us secure the fifth spot," Chickering said.

CHS freshman Caroline Woolard (23:47) and junior Abby McLaughlin (23:57) came in 32nd and 34th place, respectively.

Chickering said her girls had little choice but to put the awful weather conditions behind them and concern themselves with running their race, which was hardly the easiest thing to do on Saturday.

"The weather was horrendous for running, with the rain, cold, wind, and sleet," Chickering said, "but the girls were focused and had a mission to run their best despite the conditions and advance to state.

"We had to wait until the results were in but we thought we got the last spot, with our own calculations. It was nerve-wracking for everyone, and freezing."

Chickering praised her team for their hard work throughout the season which has led them to where they wanted to be; in the final meet of the year.

"They did what we wanted which got them to state," Chickering said. "The times were slower but with the conditions of the course, I was ecstatic for them. They worked so hard all season and they deserve it."

This year was the first year that 3A went to three qualifiers, instead of two. In the past, 12 Upper State and 12 Lower State teams qualified and 45 individuals. This year it was five teams and 15 individuals from three qualifiers. Camden competed alongside Region 4-AAA colleagues Chapin, Flora, and Dreher and along with Brookland-Cayce, Aiken, Gilbert, Airport, Midland Valley and Swansea from Region 5-AAA.

Saturday’s AAA girls’ state cross country meet at Clemson’s Sandhills Research course starts at 9 a.m. Admission is $5 per car.