Lake Norman Charter has built up one of the most competitive cross-country team in the Lake Norman area.
Although they've been slowly climbing to the top of 1A cross country, not much attention has been paid to the Knights.
The program began four years ago as one of the few sports the charter school offered for its first freshman class. The other sport offered was basketball.
Craig Zamiara, who was an assistant in 2007 before taking over as head coach the following season, said it was challenging to start the program with so many inexperienced and young runners.
"They didn't understand about work ethic, trying hard or how to push themselves," he said. "It was a slow progression."
But as the team has grown, Zamiara said they've realized how good they can be.
"We saw some success last year," he said, explaining both his boys and girls took sixth place at the NCHSAA 1A meet. "They knew we could be a lot better."
With the school's first senior class graduating in the spring, the team finally has that leadership they've lacked in previous seasons.
On the boys' side, Lake Norman Charter has been led by seniors Erik Foran and Jordan Phillips, the team's No. 1 and 2 runners.
Zamiara said his strong top seven are rounded out by Nathan Farber, Chris Hack, Bryant Hooker, Jared Shields and Michael Westbay - all of whom are juniors.
The girls' team is also young. The Knights are led by senior Bethany Johnson, but most of the team is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
Other top performers on the girls' side include sophomores Stephanie Zaino and Sarah Hardin, who was the No. 1 runner at Hopewell last season, as well as North Mecklenburg junior transfer Casey Knosby.
Zamiara said that one of the biggest reasons for the program's success has been the large number of runners on the team, which is made up of 25 girls and 25 boys.
"That promotes competition," he said. "My No. 7 wants to stay in varsity, but my 8, 9 and 10 are trying to beat them out, so they push each other at practice and meets."
That seems to be paying off , as the Knights are ranked No. 1 in the NCRunners.com 1A boys poll, while the girls are ranked second in the state by the website.
Johnson said it feels good to finally get the recognition the team deserves.
"How else is it supposed to feel?" she said.
"We're really excited this season and are really looking forward to regionals and states."
Zamiara hopes that his teams can take regionals, where both the boys and girls finished second last season, and is hopeful that his Knights will have a solid outing at the state meet Nov. 6.
"They really have the shot at possibly winning this year and in future years from here on out," he said.
Phillips, one of the team's captains, said that before they can win a title, there's still a lot of work to be done.
"I want to get it to where our team knows we can take the title," he said.
"We need to keep getting better throughout the year."