As the leaves turn colors and fall to the ground cross country season also turns to championship season. On October 22nd at Victor Ashe Park in Knoxville 1000 competitors from Memphis to Bristol and from Chattanooga to Dyersburg will take to the line to settle the all important question of who is the fastest middle school runner in the state. Make no mistake that this meet ends up giving us a preview of what is to come once they arrive to high school so coaches, take interest. Runners like Brock Baker, Andrew Ogle, Molly Foster and Hannah Denton who are tearing up the high school circuit today were all once a precocious 13-14 year old with dreams of a state championship. So as we approach this year’s edition, who will be the next big thing in Tennessee? Let’s take a look at how the regional championships unfolded:
Grace Carlson and John Carlson of Baylor (family ties?) swept the individual titles and look to finish in the top 10 and possibly could be the first brother-sister duo to win titles?! Not knowing if they are truly related this could be nothing. Don’t worry, I get the “hey, are you related to Missy Kane” at least once a week, so it happens. For those who don’t know who Missy is, go study your Olympic history books. St. Jude and Baylor Middle (returning 2nd place) led the way for the girl’s team title. On the other side, Cookeville and McCallie (returning 3rd place) were the top teams out of the region. The times are thrown out the window compared to last since they competed on different courses. However, you can bet the group from Chatt-town will show up ready to run as they are always sending a top 3 team and a some top individuals who look to push the front of the pack.
No question that of all the regions, this is the one I’m most familiar with. Times at this course are very relevant when seeing if there is improvement from one year to the next and from the region to the state meet as they all run the same course. Individually, Lewis Morris (Farragut) and Madeline Christian (Bearden) are studs winning every race this year by a healthy margin. Both look to be serious contenders for the state title with Madeline returning as the top girl finishing 4th last year and Louis running 23 seconds faster than the state champion ran last year at Victor Ashe despite this year’s region race facing rainy conditions. From a team aspect the boys from Webb (defending champs) might be the favorites for the state title as they have been clear of every team in the region by a large amount finishing with all 5 in the top 10 at the region. The girl’s teams look to have 3 teams that could finish in the top 5 at the state meet. Webb, West Valley and Karns have all interchanged leads and places this year with Webb winning the championship with the other two teams within 12 points and all averaging faster than the top team from the region last year.
The region I’m sure many had their eye on was in the northeast as the incredible team from West View lined up to make their return to Knoxville. The girl’s team now will line up as the defending state champs where they finished with an unbelievable 38 points. The question will be, are they as good as they were last year? Losing the Wilson twins and Tori Minix to Morristown-West High was certainly a great loss, but if their 15 point JV team sweep last year is any indicator, they have reloaded. Placing 1-2-3-6-9-13-14 at their region with a team average 1:10 better than second place seems to indicate that they are just as good if not better than last year and look to be the team to beat. Emily Lord was the champion and is clearly an individual state contender along with her other 2 teammates. On the boy’s side, West View ended up second behind an impressive showing from the best team name in the state Big Blue Nation. Big Blue not only scored a nice 29 points, but was also led by the individual champion John Floyd leading two Bluff City standouts.
This region is one that seems to have a lot of depth and has a number of athletes that could finish in the medals on Saturday. Brentwood boys and girls led the way sweeping the team titles. This region sent the top girls individually last year and this year seems have sent just as good of a group with Taylor Cuneo (Oakland), Emily Hughes and Hannah Caldwell (Brentwood) leading the way. Liam Morel (Sovereign Grace) looks to be a top 10 favorite based off of the time he ran at his region. Could one of these athletes step up to challenge for not only medals but possibly a championship?
This region seems to be very intriguing based off of the improvement in times from last year to this year. I wasn’t at the region last year so it could be different conditions/layout/start-finish/etc. It could also be that this group of athletes has improved dramatically. Starting with the girls, St. Agnes, Houston and Dresden had little separation in the team race (12 points) with any 3 showing that they have a chance to lead the region at the state meet. On the other side the team race was even tighter as GSL, Dresden and Houston were had a range of just 7 points! Individually, Region Champ Emilee Hudsmith and Lauralys Shallow lead the way with top 10 potential. Javan Winders looks like the top competitor to Louis Morris running an astounding 11:15 leading 8 guys who ran faster than the region champ last year.
The best part about all of this analysis and speculation is it means absolutely nothing. That’s why we run the race starting at the same start line and ending at the same finish line instead of handing out awards to the top ranked teams before the race. The sport of running is a series of constant contradictions like shorten your stride and relax to run faster and push yourself every day to get better yet take your recovery days as serious as workouts. That’s the fun part of our sport; we are constantly searching for the balance between the edge of the envelope and injury, going out too hard and kicking at the end. We can sit here and say that one kid is clearly better than the other or that a team looks like huge favorites...ultimately I don’t know the answer, but we all will come mid-day Saturday! On a final note, we have some neat aesthetic improvements to the state meet and look to enhance our coverage with Milesplit sending their team out to not only record the entirety of the races on a lead vehicle, but to capture interviews with top teams and individuals. It’s incredible to see how much this meet has grown in a few short years and to imagine where it can go!
See you Saturday,
Karns Cross Country Coach
KTC Event Manager