CROSS COUNTRY: Braves win 1A West Regional Championship

by Oct 30, 2021SPORTS di-ne-lv-di-yi0 comments



One Feather Staff


KITUWAH – Gutting it out in the cold and rain, the Cherokee Braves won the 1A West Regional Championship and qualified for state during the regional meet held at Kituwah on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 30.  With 73 points, Cherokee edged out Christ the King Catholic School with 91 and Draughn with 104.


1A West Regional meet (boys), October 30 – Cherokee One Feather (

1A West Regional meet (girls), October 30 – Cherokee One Feather (

Cherokee’s Jaylan Bark is all smiles as he crosses the finish line in fifth place at the 1A West Regional cross country meet held at Kituwah on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 30. He helped lead the Braves to a regional title which qualified the entire team for the 1A State Meet on Nov. 6. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

“I’m excited for them because they’ve really put in the work,” Ahli-Sha Stephens, Cherokee High School head cross country coach, said following the meet.  “We didn’t want them to peak too early so about four weeks ago we really started pounding on the speed work, and they’re all peaking at the right time.  Today, everyone had a PR (personal record).  We had one who was injured, but he pushed through and helped his teammates and was successful.”

She added, “I think this is the first time a Cherokee team has ever won regionals.  So, it’s a big deal.  I’m proud of them.  It was a cold, rainy day, but I told them all through the season because we ran in heat and the humidity and it was hard.  But, I said push through because when the cold weather comes, you’ll be faster.”

With the win, Cherokee qualifies for the 1A State Cross Country Championship scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville.  According to the schedule on, the 1A boys will race at 9 a.m. and the 1A girls will race at 10:20 a.m.

The Cherokee Braves won the 1A West Regional cross country championship. Shown, left to right, are Asst. Coach Jimmy Oocumma, Head Coach Ahli-sha Stephens, Oztin Swayney, Jaylan Bark, Eli Bird, Aizen Bell, Ayden Thompson, Dacian Tafoya, Tyce Hogner, Gideon Freeman, and Asst. Coach Ty Andrews. (Not pictured – Asst. Coach Taylor Brooks).

Coach Stephens said her team is ready, “It was cold.  It was rainy.  It’s going to be snowing next week at Kernersville.  But, we’ll be ready.  We can run in anything.”

The Braves were led by Jaylan Bark who placed fifth in the boys’ race with a time of 17:18.06.  “It was a tough race because it’s freezing.  Your hands just get cold and your throat starts to hurt, but you just have to tough through it all the way to the end.”

Bark is excited about heading to Kernersville.  “I’m ready to take the team on for state.  I’m ready.  I think the team is ready to take on any challenge that’s ahead of them.”

The top four teams in both races automatically qualify for state including: Boys – Cherokee, Christ the King Catholic School, Draughn, and Swain Co; Girls – Swain Co., Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, Avery Co., and Christ the King Catholic School.

The girls’ race was won by Arizona Blankenship, Swain Co., with a time of 18:33.59.  With a seventh place finish, Cherokee’s Jaylynne Esquivel qualified for the state meet with a time of 20:42.38.

Following are results, per, showing the top 10 finishers and all Cherokee High School finishers:


1 – Carson Gilliam, Thomas Jefferson, 16:33.37

2 – Reed Farrar, Draughn, 16:46.84

3 – Blake Nicholson, Christ the King, 16:53.29

4 – Connor Brown, Swain Co., 16:57.82

5 – Jaylan Bark, Cherokee, 17:18.06

6 – Clayton Laney, Murphy, 17:20.42

7 – Logan Ades, Christ the King, 17:22.25

8 – Kane Jones, Swain Co., 17:37.22

9 – Seth Emory, North Stokes, 17:39.35

10 – Aizen Bell, Cherokee, 17:46.11

18 – Tyce Hogner, Cherokee, 18:16.99

20 – Oztin Swayney, Cherokee, 18:19.52

26 – Dacian Tafoya, Cherokee, 18:29.90

34 – Ayden Thompson, Cherokee, 18:48.90

114 – Gideon Freeman, Cherokee, 25:57.34

Team Scores

1 – Cherokee 73

2 – Christ the King 91

3 – Draughn 104

4 – Swain Co. 104

5 – Murphy 154

6 – Mt. Island Charter School 158

7 – Thomas Jefferson 203


Cherokee’s Jaylynne Esquivel took seventh place in the girls’ race qualifying her for the state meet.


1 – Arizona Blankenship, Swain Co., 18:33.59

2 – Lauren Tolbert, Highland Tech, 18:54.32

3 – Nicole Alfers, Christ the King, 19:39.89

4 – Amaya Hicks, Swain Co., 20:05.82

5 – Kathyrn Haas, Avery Co., 20:12.36

6 – Brook Cheuvront, Avery Co., 20:23.48

7 – Jaylynne Esquivel, Cherokee, 20:42.38

8 – Kaitlyn Rowe, Thomas Jefferson, 20:47.56

9 – Isabelle Gventer, Langtree Charter, 20:51.19

10 – Gracie Monteith, Swain Co., 21:01.46

33 – Leilaya McMillan, Cherokee, 22:33.32

62 – Boie Crowe, Cherokee, 25:22.24

66 – Betty Lossiah, Cherokee, 25:55.66

67 – Janna Girty, Cherokee, 25:59.64

75 – Tsuli Lossiah, Cherokee, 27:27.45

Team Scores

1 – Swain Co. 42

2 – Thomas Jefferson 75

3 – Avery Co. 86

4 – Christ the King 105

5 – Mt. Island Charter 138

6 – Highland Tech 148

7 – Langtree Charter 169

8 – Cherokee 201