2016 Jr. Ward TN Classic Meet Recap

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The middle of September is here and that usually means there's a wealth of Cross Country meets to choose from both local and in nearby states.  One that I enjoy making the trip out for is the Jr Ward TN Classic.  For those teams not in the immediate Nashville area, it's a chance to make a short trip to run on the State Championship steeplechase course and see exactly where you're at this time of year.  A valuable point of reference.

Gold, Silver and JV categories give everyone a chance to compete.  Large school is the Gold category, but it's really open for anyone.  The silver for the smaller schools.  Jim Kaiser has been keeping this traditional meet going strong for a while and if you know him well, he certainly has the energy to keep it going for a long time to come.  And if cross country is anything, it certainly is based in tradition!  Thanks Jim for keeping this meet alive and well - and for this year, wet!


And this year you really needed to have some energy to get through the day.  A bit of a break for lightning and then drenching rains for most of the day made for a tough workout!  And that was for the spectators!  For the athletes, running in the rain and mud is what cross country is really like and what cross country was made for! 

The girl's gold started out the day and one of the top athletes in the state, Erica Fisher of Arlington, took off from the start and showed why she is clearly at that spot.  Last season, she ran this race is 20:46 and came back in November to clock a 19:17 at the state meet on the same course.  This year, coming off a great finish at the Brooks Twilight a few weeks ago, she clocks an 18:48.90 to post a huge improvement on this very difficult course.  And even though the girls gold didn't have the huge mud and hammering rain the later races experienced, but it still was wet and still a tough course to run.  That was an impressive race for sure. 


Siegel's senior athlete, Victoria Simmons, did her best to pace behind Erica and ran a 19:06.50 to get the runner up spot.  Victoria was the lead off runner for Siegel's third place team spot at this meet.  In third place overall was Halle Hausman of Science Hill in a 19:15.10.  Halle, along with teammate Julia Simpson (19:56.60, 5th overall) was the front runners for a solid Science Hill team that won the overall title Saturday.  Signal Mountain's Taylor Luthringer was wedged between the two Science Hill girls getting fourth overall in 19:34.60.  That was a solid group of athletes finishing in that top five on this course. 


Now to the boys Gold division.  This one was the first race after the lightning delay and I have to tell you, the first mile on the course was pretty much in a torrential downpour.  And then the second was well, wet too... and the third... yea, these guys were drenched!   But even through that driving rain, you could see the big blue letters "WC" on that bright background of the Wilson Central team.  These guys took the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th overall spots at this Gold division and were pretty much the same as the rain, relentless in their team win.  Lead runner, Nathan Peterson (16:20) started the trend and was followed by fellow senior John Elrod (3rd in 16:25), Joel Barlow (16:34), Baylor Franklin (16:52) and then Grant Pody (17:14) to seal the deal for this prolific team. 


Science Hill senior, Alex Crigger was kind of the WC spoiler with his overall win in the Gold with 16:13.60 posting.  This was a tough place to run this    day and Alex certainly didn't get fazed by the rain, mud, wind or anything.  But I do have to say, Alex ran a 16:13.38 at the state meet last season and this race is on the exact same course, in one heck of worse conditions, and he is only a fraction of a second off his fastest time on the course.  If you aren't raising your eyebrows on his posting, then you should - it's a good race on a very tough day.  That pretty much puts Alex on watch list in November for sure! 


Well, being from the Memphis area, I'm going to have to mention the Bartlett team here.  Luke McNair started out the season in what I would call a decent start.  Nothing spectacular but by no means a sleeper either.  But this race, well, seems Luke decided to blast out one of those memorable races.  In the pouring rain - did I mention it was raining?  Muddy?  Well, running a 16:54 in these conditions to better his time from last year by just under a minute, well, pretty impressive.  It usually takes me a while to analyze the performances these athletes accomplish before pegging one as a top performer.  Luke seems to be starting out on a trek to have a break-out year and the way he stuck with these Wilson Central guys Saturday was definitely a good sign of things to come.  Heck, a personal best on the course in that lashing rain, and if the weather is bad, keep an eye on this guy come November on this course. 


Luke and teammates, took the runner up spot in the team division with 95 points.  A bit of a way behind the Wilson Central score of 29, but well ahead of third place Franklin which posted 145 points in the bronze position.  The second Bartlett runner was freshman Jackson Williams (17:07), third and fourth spots were really close with Benjamin Homeyer getting in at 17:31 and Jason Hamilton just over a second behind in 17:32.40.  And their last scorer was Brendan Hill who came in 29th overall in 17:39.80.  Just another second behind Brendan was another Bartlett runner, Avery Wood (17:41) so these guys certainly look like they're working together and able to have the depth to put a strangle hold on that runner up spot.  Great job Bartlett!

The Gold division was the first group running at this meet with the Silver after and then the JV groups.  In the boys Silver, Covington's Jhon-wes Walker ran a 17:27.47 that put him at the top of the podium.  Did I mention it was raining at this meet?  Well, because of that rain, they left the podium part out of the picture and tried to get the trophies to the athletes through the trailer at the finish line.  At least the trophies stayed dry for a while! 

Runner up in the Silver division was earned by Hume-Fogg Academic's Will Hileman in 17:40.20 and McCallie athlete George Arrowsmith nailed the third spot in 17:44.92.  George was the first McCallie athlete across the finish line but a swift group of teammates were coming across the finish shortly after his race to get the McCallie the Silver team award.  Samuel Ligon (18:28), Duke Richey (18:37) and Dylan Zeller (18:44) were the next group of McCallie (all freshman) to finish and Chris Duncan anchored the fifth spot with his 18:55.12.  Harding Academy and Lausanne decided to get some top fives here as well as Josh Hinkle (17:52) and Sohan Pokorny-Yadav (18:06) took 4th and 5th overall. 


So, if you were at this meet and happened to be around when the girls Silver division started you saw something really impressive.  I had been waiting for this race to see how King's Academy Niamh Schumacher was running at this point of the season.  Then after watching all that rain, I was even more interested to see the race.  For the beginning of the race, I was standing just past the 1 mile mark, a downhill sweeping turn into an easy and fairly long uphill.  A tough part of the course that has a tendency to give athletes some quiet time to think about exactly how bad they feel!  Well, Niamh came up over the hill in the lead, which I wasn't surprised.  She was holding a pretty good pace but I was surprised that she wasn't really breathing that hard.  Actually, she looks focused of course, but really relaxed and smooth.  The she passed and as I waited for the second group to come by, I realized just how impressive Niamh was running.  It was about a minute or so when the next group came by.  Niamh took the race by storm (yea, I know, I just couldn't wait to say that!).  She ran a very fast 18:12.90 to post the fastest girls time by over 30 seconds!  And she did it by winning almost two minutes ahead of her competition!  Wet, sloppy conditions, running alone, she posts the fastest time of the day.  That also is her fastest time over this course.  That can't be good for her D2 competition when they all meet on this course in November.  That's going to be fun to watch.


Ok, so you hear that saying when someone is clearly taking the fist spot that the race is now for second place.  Well, in this case, it's really does seem appropriate.  A couple of Dresden teammates were battling with an 8th grader from Davidson Academy.  Lucy Rutherford (Davidson) got the fourth place spot running 20:48.40.  Anna Johnson and Loral Winn, the Dresden teammates were the others in this race for second.  Although Anna and these other girls settled into their respective finishing spots pretty early in the race, watching them run - on this spectator friendly course - you can see they each had to be pretty focused to stay in their positions.  Anna ran 20:10.60 and Loral a 20:30.90.  In fifth place was Julia Vogt of Presentation High school with a 21:43.20.  A few seniors patched into the top finishers here, with Julia being one of them, but for the most part this was a young group of talented athletes across the top.


The girl's silver team results were a bit closer than some of the other results.  Father Ryan made the top of the podium with 69 points that was six ahead of Presentation's 75.  Just as is the case in a lot of team wins, these girls seemed to run pretty closely together.  Father Ryan was lead off by Mary Hampton Hayden who came in 6th overall in 21:55.  Then in a very tightly packed group came freshman Rachel Knapp (22:28), two neck-and-neck seniors Samantha Correa (23:00.40) and Regan Rosinski (23:00.60), and getting the fifth scoring spot was another freshman on the team with Helen McCall (23.20.80).  That's a successful formula in cross country, run closely together, feed off each other, help each other get through the tough spots, and then get to the finish as fast as you can.  Nicely done!

So if you are a purist when it comes to cross country and were at the Steeplechase course Saturday, then you probably are still talking about it!  Rain, mud, breezy, hills, and strong competition!  Wow, how can you ask for anything more fun than that!


See you on the track... er... once I clean off the mud!

Coach Ted