HENDERSON — Just over a year ago, only a single runner represented cross country for Crossroads Christian in Brady Bargfrede.

Now Bargfrede is surrounded by an entire team of runners and head coach Trey Snide, who have come together and led Crossroads to the top of the Mid-Carolina Conference and NCISAA 1A standings, with a state championship well within reach.

Snide admitted that credit for Crossroads’ success in cross country belongs to all of his runners who have challenged one another and put in the necessary determination to turn the program into a title contender.

“Once we had a full team, we started rocking and rolling,” Snide said. “I honestly don’t think I did anything. They did everything I asked of them and they took this and literally ran with it. From day one, it’s been a pleasure to coach these guys and they’ve made everything very easy for me.”

Snide, who previously ran track and field at Lees-McRae College, knew that surrounding Bargfrede with an efficient team would be crucial towards making a state championship run.

In his sophomore year, Bargfrede made history by becoming the first cross country runner at Crossroads to earn all-state honors, which he accomplished by finishing 11th amongst other boys in the 1A class in the NCISAA 1A State Championships.

Bargfrede had no issues with solely representing Crossroads in cross country but said that being surrounded by other team members in practice and meets helped reinvigorate the passion he had for the sport.

“I really needed a team to push me on,” Bargfrede said. “Before this season began, I didn’t even know if I was going to be running because I just didn’t have the self-motivation. I have to thank all of the guys who did join the team this year. It really meant a lot to me.”

The first runner that ended up joining Bargfrede on the cross country roster was senior Mason Gladieux, who had previously served as a key rotational piece on Crossroads’ men’s basketball roster.

Once Snide recruited Mason, he then turned his attention to his baseball roster at Crossroads, where he convinced his standout center fielder in junior Zachary Bartholomew to give the school its first complete cross country team in a decade.

As Mason and Bargfrede continued to show more improvement during the season, interest in the cross country program increased. Mason’s brother Ben took part in his first meet at Crossroads on Sept. 21 before junior Shane Anthony gave Snide his fifth member on the varsity team.

The addition of Ben and Anthony only solidified an already-strong foundation that Snide had established with Bargfrede, Mason and Bartholomew.

Mason and Bargfrede rank second and fourth in the NCISAA 1A 5,000 meter individual standings with personal records of 17 minutes, 34 seconds and 18 minutes, 44 seconds respectively, which they achieved in the second meet of the season at Grace Christian back on Sept. 13.

A personal record of 18 minutes and 49 seconds achieved by Ben at the Thales Rolesville Meet on Oct. 12 gave Snide three runners inside the NCISAA 1A Top 5. Anthony also set his personal record in that same event with a time of 19 minutes and 51 seconds and currently sits 15th in the rankings.

The amount of success Crossroads has experienced in 2021 has not come as a major surprise for Snide. He added that the positive attitude displayed by each runner throughout the year has enabled them all to embrace and maximize their own potential.

“There’s a lot of excitement here,” Snide said. “We had an opportunity for the first time to do something special. The conference didn’t know what to expect from us and we realized we had something after [Mason and Brady] finished inside the Top 10 during that first meet. Everything took off from there.”

While Snide is proud of the strides made by Bargfrede to continue his stellar career at Crossroads, he said that the ability of Mason, Ben, Bartholomew and Anthony to quickly pick up and excel at cross country has helped elevate the entire program.

Mason, who brought some cross country experience with him to Crossroads after running for Cardinal Gibbons during his freshman year, never once envisioned a state championship would be possible at the start of the year and simply wanted to help his teammates in any way he could.

Now entering the NCISAA 1A state championships as the top runner for Crossroads with three individual victories on the year, Mason is proud of the progress he has made in just a short amount of time and believes that the efficiency of the team in 2021 is going to be sustainable with everyone else set to return next year.

“I’ve seen improvement everywhere,” Mason said. “Not just as a runner but as a person and a teammate. I’ve been able to run with a lot of new people and that’s really been a blessing. I was ecstatic just to crack 19 minutes in my first meet and then shaving off two seconds on that very same course a couple weeks later. That also made me realize everyone on this team was capable of the same success.”

With so much speed within the cross country program, Mason is confident that he and his teammates can take advantage of the available opportunity and hang a state championship banner inside the Crossroads gymnasium.

The location of the NCISAA 1A State Championships in Wilmington’s Olsen Park is flatter than most other courses Crossroads has competed on but Snide said that practicing on the rugged Henderson countryside will give his runners an advantage when it comes to endurance.

Snide is not expecting anything to come easy for Crossroads with so many other talented teams battling for the same goal but he knows that his runners will have a great chance to end the year on top of the NCISAA 1A division as long as they stick to their strengths.

“We just need to do what we’re supposed to do,” Snide said. “A plan has been in place since the second meet of the season that has revolved around getting better every single week. We’re favored to win but numbers are just numbers. All five of my guys have made it to states but it’s going to take each and every one of them for us to come home with a title.”

If the cross country program returns from Olsen Park with a victory, they will join the 2021 men’s golf team as a Crossroads state champion. The quest for that goal will take place on Oct. 29.