The Philip Simmons girls’ cross country team finished as the Class AA state runner-up this fall, concluding what supporters, team members and its coach describe as a season that provides a taste of the future.

Five of the team’s runners finished in the top 10 at the state meet, more than any another other school, including the state title winner Greer Middle College Charter. Each of those five runners are in grades 10 or lower.

“The future is so bright here at Philip Simmons,” said coach Joshua Michael. “…We are certainly set up for the long haul.”

In fact, all of the Lady Iron Horse runners are in the 10th grade and below, from 4th-place state finisher Josie May (20:12:17) to 38th-place finisher Grace Ward (23:26:90)

While a few minutes separated May from Ward, the five PSH all-state runners finished within seconds of each other, accomplishing exactly what they had hoped going into the state meet.

“The focus for the team (aside from the top 3) has been to close the gap on the leaders and to work as a group to push themselves beyond their comfort zone,” Coach Michael said.

The team’s top three runners, May; 10th-grader Hailey Meyers (20:16:74) and 10th-grader Emmy Wood (20:27:70) are now in their fourth year of leading the team. Michael said even though they are all sophomores, they are “very mature runners.” In addition, he said the dedication of the team’s younger runners cannot be overlooked. He described the rookie cross country seasons of 8th-grader Phoebe Cogan (20:32:83) and 9th-grader Matea Payer (20:45:15) as “incredibile.”

“I can’t share the secret sauce, but I will say we have had tremendous success with our younger runners,” Coach Michael said. “I think it is a combination of creating a team environment that is welcoming to new runners as well as developing training that addresses the specific needs of younger runners. Living in an area that has such well-developed youth track programs also plays a key role in their success.”