D2-A State Meet Preview

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D2 A Cross Country Preview for 2016

It's getting close to the end of the school cross country season but to some, there's other seasons going on at the moment.  You know the 'other' sports.... But let me put that in perspective, at least from a runners coach perspective...  There is no bench in cross country!  .... Heck, I just love that slogan! 

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And actually, for some the state championship for cross country is the end of their cross country season and that's fine.  For some though, you consider NXN cross nationals, AAU nationals, USATF nationals, and of course, Foot Locker.  For something more local, Brentwood Academy and High put on a 3200M time trial a little after the state championships (November 19th this year) and the day before KYA is doing the same.  So don't stop running!

Ok, back to the reason for the article, the D2-A preview.  Niamh Schumacher is the #2 runner in the state for all divisions and #1 for this D2-A classification.  This King's Academy senior has had one heck of a running career with impressive PR's across the board in several distances.  And this year is no exception as she's run her fastest cross country time to date, a 17:18.27 at the Jesse Owens classic early October.  She ran an 18:12 at the TN Classic this season which was a touch over a 40 second PR on the steeplechase course.  And she ran way in the lead the whole distance which attests to her flawless racing focus and determination to win! 


Although trailing Niamh in the rankings, Niki Narayani of Web School of Knoxville is a sub 18 cross country runner and a top six statewide 5K ranked athlete.  That should put Niki on the watch list should Niamh stumble a bit and Niki come into the state race feeling strong and fast.  Niki also has set her career best 5K this season and comes into the race with obvious confidence and numbers to back her up.  If both are feeling good, I'm giving Niamh the edge, but sometimes the younger athletes suddenly have all cylinders firing at the same time and can break out a super-fast race out of nowhere.   Like I've said before, it's cross country and really, anything can happen! 

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This season, it seems most of the divisions have these pockets of athletes with similar talents.  Their performances are really close to each other.  We're seeing the same trend with this division when you look at the group ranked third through tenth.  There's about a minute between these girls' best times this season.  And although that may sound like a lot of time, you have to realize these best times come on different courses.  Those courses could be harder, faster, raining, and who knows what other variables may have affected the times posted there.  Chelsey Jordan stands in the third ranked spot for this division with Lindsay Holliday, her Web School teammate, right there next to her with the only sub 20 times in this group.  With these two girls, that spots three Web School of Knoxville athletes ranked in the top five for D2-A.  Impressive stat for that team and you probably can guess what that's going to amount to.

                           

Looking through this top ten group, Lucy Rutherford's 20:48.40 performance seems to stand out for me.  This Davidson Academy athlete ran that time at the TN Classic in September.  That's the same course as the state course.  And that day was pouring down rain, a very sloshy course, and not the best times with that weather.  If it's nice and sunny for the state meet, that performance might give her an edge to jump into a top five spot or higher Saturday.  It at least is a huge confidence builder and makes her one to watch.  Someone else to keep an eye on here will be St. Cecilia's Clare Peters and Shelby Myrncza who have times of 20:01 and 20:03.  Those are so close to sub 20 times that I would imagine these two girls would work together to be contenders for top five or even get into a top three spot.  Sometimes the state race will surprise you!

Having six girls ranked in the top 20 for the D2-A division, Webb School of Knoxville appears to have the edge in the team category this season.  Last year they were about 24 points ahead of the runner up team.  This year however, I believe this team may just double that advantage as they go on to defend their title.  Runner up spot here isn't going to be as cut and dry though.  University School of Jackson, with senior Kayla Puzdrakiewicz leading the way, could be the favorite for runner up team this year.  But I'm also leaning hard on University School of Nashville to grab that runner up spot.  Then there's St. George's or even St. Cecilia who could squeeze up into the runner up spot if just a few of those runners run a touch faster than what they are comfortable with.  This will be a fun race to watch, but probably pretty stressful for the coaches as they wait to see what position their athletes are in as they come up that last steep hill and turn towards the finish line! 

Now, if you're into the numbers when it comes to team competition, keep a close eye on the boys from Webb School of Knoxville.  You are probably going to see a lot of Webb jerseys crossing the finish line early in the race.  I really can't see them losing the team battle this year with the strength this team has coming into this race.  My guess, they post twenty seven points.  But then again, that's just my guess.

Leading the way in the ranking coming into this race is Webb School of Knoxville's Carter Coughlin with a very fast 15:20.20.   Right behind him is Riley Schumaker (same school), Jacob Robinson (University School of Nashville, 16:50.63) and the last sub seventeen time is Carter's other teammate, Gabriel Tardy with 16:58.00.  That's an impressive top four here. 

                   

As you browse through the fifth through tenth spots, you see that only 41 seconds separates these guys.  From Lausanne's Sohan Pokorny-Yadav's 17:01 to Timothy Hays of USN at 17:42.51, you can easily say it's going to come down to the wire on how these athletes finish on Saturday.   And with only three seniors among the top 10 in this division, the excitement is going to be on for a while. 

The D2-A east/middle region meet this past Thursday was probably a really good indication on how the state meet might stack up.   No surprise on the top four finishers with Carter and Gabriel crossing the finish in exactly how they stack up on the rankings.  Andrew Cox came in 5th at that race with a time very close to his PR and leapfrogged some people ranked higher than him.  Just goes to show that anything can happen in cross country. 

Now add Josh Hinkle of Harding and Zach Williams (St. George's) into the mix from the west and then we start to see some shuffling on how this state meet could end up.  Lausanne's Sohan raced his time at the Brooks Twilight but hasn't shown up since.  And with no results from the D2A West Region having been posted, makes for a difficult call on where these top west athletes stand compared to the rest of the state.   


Zach Williams may be the tip of the spear for this St. George's team.  He's run a bit slower this season than last, however, he has posted a strong time on the steeplechase course last year and is a heck of a lot more consistent on his times this season.  That combination might mean he's ready to bust out a strong run Saturday.   Zach's teammate, Thomas Mann also looks impressive this season running PR of 17:56.20 which was over thirty seconds faster on the same course (Jesse Owens course).   So he comes into this Saturday on a strong note as well.  That might bode well for the St. George's team. 

But even going through the top fifteen athletes in this division we see that a lot of performances are under 18 and pretty evenly matched.  A tough course like the steeplechase course... well, you know how that works! 

So who would you pick after Webb to get the runner up spot in the team race.  Is it St. George's with a pretty solid group of guys that have posted times less than a minute apart across their top five runners?  Or does University School of Nashville look more appealing to you with a good chance their top five will all finish inside the top 25 at this race.  If you took everyone's best 5K time, St. George's gets the nod.  But looking at what everyone is running today, then USN.  Or do you see someone else coming into the mix?

        

Hope everyone has a great race Saturday!

See you on the track and the grass!

Coach Ted


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