The Newton boys and girls cross country teams ended their season Saturday in Carrollton during the Class AAAAA State Championships on a positive note.
For the fourth straight year both squads competed in the event - a 5K run (3.1 miles) - a remarkable feat considering where the teams stood in previous years. In addition, both teams moved up four spots from the 2006 State Championships.
"I'm real happy that we were able to do that as a team," said Newton head coach Aaron Robinson. "I thought that showed a lot of progress to move up at the state level. Of course, we went in with expectations a little higher, but to improve (was) a good bonus.
"We had a really good day," added Robinson. "They performed really well, especially some of the older kids."
Under the leadership and guidance of Robinson, both teams have established themselves among the ranks as legitimate contenders.
Ameryst Armstead was Newton's top runner as she placed 80th overall with a time of 21 minutes and 34.81 seconds.
Other top finishers for the Lady Rams included Megan Heineman (135th, 23:01.75), Tashia Bowin (169th, 24:42.19), Claire Davis (184th, 25:38.82), Shinita Caldwell (199th, 27:29.58) and Amanda Childers (206th, 28:40.40).
The Lady Rams' average time was 24:29.43, besting six other schools to place 25th overall. Last year they finished 29th overall.
For the Newton boys, all seven runners finished under 20 minutes.
"I don't think we've ever done that before," remarked Robinson. "It just shows the guys in the back are doing their part. They've really stepped it up, and that's part of the reason why our team time was so good."
Travis Knight led the way for the Rams with a time of 18:06.73, good for 100th overall.
Other top runners included LeDarren Hall (117th, 18:21.19), Raymond Menefee (143rd, 18:53.33), Tyler Ransom (151st, 19:02.63), Carl Collins (162nd, 19:25.65), Jamal Green (174th, 19:41.59) and Joey Joseph (184th, 19:53.65).
Their average time was 18:45.91, good for 21st place ahead of 11 other schools. Last year they finished 25th overall.
During the state meet, Lassiter's Zack Flickinger finished first overall with a time of 15 minutes and 49.96 seconds.
Heritage's Shuaib Winters finished his illustrious high school career with a mark of 16:17.41, which was good for fourth overall, a career best during the state meet.
Winters helped his Patriots place sixth overall, a school best.
For the girls, Amanda Winslow (Collins Hill) won with a time of 18:25.62. Winslow helped her team win first place during its final meet of the season.
"I wish them all the best of luck," said Robinson of his seniors. "I don't think it's necessarily a sad time - it's just a time for them to move on in their running careers. As far as academics, it's an opportunity for them. I just hope they take what lessons they've learned in cross country to wherever and whatever they do.
"All of the many characteristics of a good runner can also make you an overall good person, too," added Robinson.