As the state championship approaches this weekend, we continue our region reviews with the East Tennessee regions.
In regions one and two, some of the best teams in the state clashed in the large school division. A few top individual contenders also laid down nice marks heading into State.
Story, Neglia Cruise to Region Wins
But first, we start with the two of the most consistent runners in the state so far this season.
Story paced the field in 17:44 en route to her victory at Victor Ashe Park. Neglia won the region one title in 17:53. That's her second time under 18 minutes this year.
Those two are favorites to be state champions this weekend. We knew that coming into the week.
But we learned that they're both on track. And still progressing well into the biggest competition of the year in the state of Tennessee.
With such a large gap between you and the field, it's easy to relax and shut it down in order to save energy for the state competition. But these two girls still dropped impressive times.
They'll both be able to use that momentum in Nashville on Saturday to run some very fast times.
Knoxville Catholic Boys are For Real
In their first season in the Large Schools division, the Fighting Irish of Knoxville Catholic have a legitimate shot at a state championship.
Catholic was the only team to keep its average time under 17 minutes. And in the large schools division this season, the Irish have the lowest average in the state (16:11).
Renfree and Sullivan are a big reason why. Those two guys are one of the best 1-2 punches in Tennessee at any level of competition. And if they're able to stay in the top five at State, Catholic has a great shot at bringing home the title.
The key is the one-through-five split. And at the region two championship, Knox Catholic proved it can keep that gap small. There was just 1:31 separating Renfree and Riley Smith on Thursday.
Granted, the frontrunners in this meet were likely holding back. Renfree is capable of much faster than 16:05, but just needed to advance to the next round. But the State Championship might be more tactical.
Teams that run together have a major advantage on Steeplechase. If the Irish stick together, I expect them to certainly be on the podium this weekend.
University School of Johnson City Turns in Team Performance of the Weekend
You can't do much better than what University School of Johnson City did last weekend.
The boys went 1-2-3-4-5-7-8. From a points perspective, the girls finished 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.
That's not bad.
Porter Bradley is a contender for the individual Small Schools State Championship. But the tight spread is what makes this team so dangerous. The second runner, Pablo Rivas, was only 25 seconds in front of the team's fifth finisher Caleb Strickler.
That's a big bonus in championship season.
Bradley has the third fastest time in the league going into the state competition. And with such a tight pack, if he wins the meet then he's bringing four other guys with him.
That pack has a good shot to win the state title given the momentum they gained against region foes.