WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y.— Coach Nick Kowgios knew he had something special on his hands when Ava Jolley showed up for North Salem’s first cross-country practice.

She hasn’t stopped impressing him ever since.

Jolley finished fourth at the Section 1 championships in the Class C race to become the first girl in North Salem history to qualify for states in cross-country on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls.

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“Ava ran a perfect race,” Kowgios said. “She established her place in the field early and never relinquished her spot throughout the 5K race. Her outstanding performance is a real testament to her work ethic and unyielding desire to succeed.”

The freshman phenom recorded a time of 20:25.11 to help lead the girls to a third-place team finish. She will compete in the state championships on Nov. 11 at Wayne High School up near Rochester.

“As the season progressed, Ava just continued to improve with each meet, and her tenacious attitude allowed her to excel,” Kowgios said.

Juliette Intrieri placed 12th in a clocking of 21:47.74 and teammate Stella Ard was 16th in 22:03.40. Emma Litchfield (37th) and Daniella Jacobsen (57th) rounded out the field. All five of the Tiger girls ran personal bests.

Ben Leicht paced the boys team with a 12th place finish (17:48.02).

“Ben ran a solid race,” Kowgios said. “He was obviously a bit disappointed, but he had an outstanding season and his training has set him up for a great winter season.”

The Tiger boys, who finished fourth as a team, also had strong performances from Ben Leicht (17th, 18:00.78) and Shane Cotter (18:05.81) on the hilly 5,000-meter course.

“The boys team ran really well,” Kowgios said. “The level of competition was very high and the final point totals between first and fourth for team totals were very close.”

Evgeniy Batuyev (35th) and Christian Kappes (36th) also placed in the top 40.