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Teams in this post:

All Area Girls Cross Country

Carmen Hilliard of South Brunswick won Waccamaw Conference Runner of the Year for the fourth time in 2012. (Photo by Photo by Paul Stephen)

Since the fall of 2009, the sport of cross country has seen a significant growth within the Waccamaw Conference. Participation throughout Brunswick County has spiked.


One thing has remained constant over the past four years, however. Carmen Hilliard of South Brunswick finishes each season as the conference champion.

The senior finished her career the same way she began it, winning Waccamaw Conference Runner of the Year for the fourth time in 2012. This time around, though, she's also added the StarNews All-Area Girls Cross Country of the Year award.

And she's done this all while basically starting the Cougars' program herself.

"Whenever I came my freshman year, we had just gotten a new coach," Hilliard said. "He didn't really know much about running and didn't know anyone who was interested. I started going to the summer workouts with my dad and we helped start the distance program at South Brunswick."

Not only has this helped improve the participation within the cross country program at South Brunswick, but has also made the school a powerhouse within the Waccamaw Conference. 

"We definitely have a lot more participating," Hilliard said. "I think my freshman year; we only had maybe five girls. This year we had a full team of girls with seven people. Every year we made it to regionals; we were also undefeated conference champions. So that was really cool to maintain all four years."

Her presence made the transition much easier for new head coach Matthew Wall, the Cougars' fourth coach in four years.

"Carmen was probably our principal leader," Wall said. "She was very crucial. She was the center of our family core that we revolved around. She was able to lead our group of athletes, able to keep pushing everybody while at the same time pushing herself to the next level."

Hilliard herself has become the face of cross country within the conference, building the sports' popularity throughout the area with her dominance as well. The senior has not lost a conference meet since her freshman year, placing first in every one since then.

While Hilliard completed a string of undefeated starts in conference runs, she built on that success at the regional and state meets.

This year, she finished seventh at the Class 3A East regional, then posted her biggest accomplishment at the state championship meet, a personal record of 19 minutes, 0.83 seconds to finish 10th overall.

"That was awesome," Hilliard said. "That was so unexpected. I had a 51 second personal record at states. It was crazy, I was so excited. That was my No. 1 goal this year, to finish top 10 at states and it happened so I'm happy."

With Hilliard leaving, the future of the South Brunswick program begins a transition phase.

It won't be her strength on the course, but her personality off of it, that the team will miss so much.

"She's left quite a legacy," Wall said. "It will be remembered in the years to come for sure. That will have lasting effects on her teammates too; that they can be that good if they're willing to push themselves. I think her heart is what we'll miss the most. Her records and times will go on with her but her ability to push people no matter where they're at is what we'll miss."



All-Area Girls Cross Country

Carmen Hilliard, Sr., South Brunswick (Player of the Year): Finished 10th in Class 3A state championships with a time of 19:00. Won the Waccamaw Conference and finished 7th in 3A East regional race.

Julia Bourdeau, Fr., Ashley: Took third in the Mideastern Conference championships and finished 13th in 4A Central regional in 20:27.

Reagan Daughtry, Jr., New Hanover: Finished 21st at 4A Central regional and helped lead New Hanover defend its Mideastern Conference title. 

Kerry Leonard, Sr., Laney: Won the Mideastern Conference individual title, finished third in the 4A Central regional and 31st in the 4A state meet (19:03).

Sarah Miller, Jr., New Hanover: Finished 20th at 4A Central regional and led New Hanover to a defense of its Mideastern Conference title.

Rachel Quinlen, Sr., Topsail: Emotional leader paced a young Pirate team to qualifying for the state meet by finishing third as a team in the 2A east regionals.

Lindsey Williams, Fr., Ashley: Took second in the Mideastern Conference championships and finished ninth in 4A Central regional (20:20).

All-Conference Teams

Mideastern Conference

First Team–Julia Bourdeau, Ashley; Regan Daughtry, New Hanover; Kerry Leonard, Laney; Sarah Miller, New Hanover; Erin Naziri, Rose; Paige Pottle, New Hanover; Lindsey Williams, Ashley

Second Team–Madeline Hulbert, Hoggard; Elizabeth Magill, Hoggard; Megan Pawlowski, Hoggard; Charise Roberts, Hoggard; Celeste Skoff, Laney; Sara Snyder, New Bern; Rachel Walter, New Hanover

Player of the year: Kerry Leonard, Laney. Coach of the year: Nolan Tobey, New Hanover

Waccamaw Conference

North Brunswick–Kelly Heyer. South Brunswick–Carmen Hilliard, Ashley Sloup, Kendall Regan. West Brunswick–Shelly Chavis, Brianna Mokma, Corina Sierra, Alexa Evans, Gray Cheers. Whiteville–Laura Nye, Madison Creech.

East Central Conference

Clinton–Grace Reagan, Lexi Valenti. Croatan–Savannah Pugh, Mary Stegall, Macy Brinson. Richlands–Janae Rubendall. South Lenoir–Caroline Jones. Swansboro–Brenna Kate Grass, Kierstyn Horton, Mariah Butchko, Tiffany Saulsgiver, Mia Horvath.

Cape Fear Independent Conference

Cape Fear Academy: Ben Jackson, Alex Nadaud, Cameron Stephens, Worth Mercer.