2014 State Cross Country Meet Review
The start of the day was around thirty eight degrees, a good amount of wind, and a very stingy sun. By the end of the meet, the temperature went up a few degrees but not much else changed. I had to shake my head a little to remind myself that this wasn’t my old stomping grounds in upstate New York, it was Nashville. The state cross country championships started out with a nice Canadian cold front dipping into the state. A hat and gloves were allowed. Most of the parents probably thought that was a good idea, but for the athletes, I didn’t hear a single one of them saying much about the weather. And why would they, these are cross country athletes and the weather is one of the reasons they love the sport so much! Well, that and mud. Even with the rain the night before, the mud followed suit with the sun and stayed hidden for the day.
In my preview article, I said that most of the contests had some great athletes to watch that wouldn’t disappoint any fan of the sport. Well, I certainly didn’t expect every race to be that way. But it was. And exactly on time, starting out in the freezing cold and wind, were the A-AA division girls. The top three ranked girls in the state for all divisions were lined up at the start of this race. These three girls started out the race and bolted to the front and were not about to let anyone pass them. None of these girls worried what fighting the wind and cold was going to do to their pace. They were completely focused on the race, the whole time! Just past the first mile, the three formed into a pack and leading the way in the group was eventual fourth place finisher Taylor Cosey (Christian Academy of Knoxville, 19:19). Slowly, Taylor Cuneo (Central Magnet) kept pushing forward and gaining some time and it really wasn’t until the last 400 meters could you say Taylor had this won. But she did, and in an impressive cold time of 18:57.58. That was only about eight or so seconds ahead of Rebecca Story (CAK) who finished runner up in 19:06. These two girls are respectively ranked 1 and 2 in the state – and both will be running against each other for a very long time to come. They’re both freshman, so yea, lots of great races to come! The third ranked girl in the state also came in third Saturday and that was Mallory Young of Signal Mountain in a time of 19:40. Now that was impressive, 1, 2, 3 and same ranking across the state! Every stride in this race was important to the outcome and every stride was just as exciting to watch as you expected it to be!
Now if you take the team results, all you had to do was keep CAK in the middle and do a 180 and there you’d have it… Signal Mount in 1st, CAK in 2nd and Central Magnet in third. Just a flip flop of the individual results. Signal Mountain’s win was helped by having three girls in the top 12, with Mallory leading the way, and the following teammates coming through for the win: Taylor Luthringer (20:13, 5th), Ale Diaz (20:38, 12th), Becca Umbarger (20:43, 14th), and finishing off the top 5 was 19th team place finisher Erin Brown with a 21:02. An impressive 53 points for the girls and well ahead of second score of 78 by CAK.
The boys A-AA race was a little different overall on how it came about. Zach Long of Grainger took the lead from the very beginning and held on to the overall win by about 13 seconds with a time of 16:12. Right behind Zach though was a back and forth race for second with two Knoxville Catholic teammates (Joe Bindner and John Chavez) battling out with Chattanooga Christian athlete Gus Whitman. A similarity though in this race, the top ranked D1 A-AA athlete was also the winner (Zach). The next three athletes took a summersault with the rankings. Joe Bindner who is ranked fourth overall for A-AA in the state took the runner up spot over his teammate and overall third ranked Chavez. Gus Whitman of Chattanooga Christian took the fourth place finish in 16:25 and Gus is the third ranked athlete for A-AA. I just re-read that and I’m confused! Oh and to add one more level to this, these three athletes finished with a time that was only a half second apart. That was a top race from top ranked athletes! In the fifth overall spot was Hume-Fogg’s Dominic Voehler with a time of 16:57. And by the way, Dominic is ranked 5th in the A-AA state rankings! Wow…. And I thought the girls race was exciting… how can you beat that!
As I mentioned in some comments in the preview article, I thought Hume-Fogg would be the overall team winner and they certainly did win. It was a bit of a question though since they scored 90 points and Knoxville Catholic had 102 and Martin Luther King a close 103. And although Hume-Fogg had only Dominic in the top 5, they were able to bunch their guy’s together close enough to give them the team edge. Their second runner was David Tyrus (17:19), third runner was Baker Neenan (17:28) and the last two places were Jacob Gholson (17:53) and John Crenshaw (18:20). Although all the points count in the team totals, Knoxville Catholic squeaked ahead of MLK thanks to the their tight finishers at the top.
The D-2 AA girls was the next race to be contested and the sun still hadn’t show itself much. But again, cross country runners seem to have a very detached view of the weather and so when it was time, they all lined up ready to hear the starter’s instructions. Once the gun went off, it seems all the top runners – all top 20 placers – ran quickly to the front and seemed to set a pretty quick pace. By the first mile, Ensworth’s Emma Sloan, Harpeth Hall’s Reagan Freeman, St. Agnes’s Lauralys Shallow, and Brentwood Academy’s Claire Cheesman decided to pack together and run just ahead of everyone else.
The lead pack did that for quite a while until Emma decided to pull ahead of everyone else and kept increasing her lead once she passed the two mile point. Just as they topped over the crest of that last steep hill and made the downhill turn, Emma was clearly in the lead but it was a tight race for second. Claire was in the runner up spot at that point but Reagan seemed to have a kick starting even though she was just coming off that killer hill! And as Reagan took the turn around that last cedar bush, you could tell the senior athlete had a determined look on her face and that kick started to find another gear even though you know the chill in the air just tightens up those legs at the end of the race! She passed by Claire as they went up the long gradual last hill to capture that runner up spot with a 19:03 over Claire’s 19:05. Lauralys Shallow was a few seconds back to grab fourth in 19:17 and Ruth Wiggins (Briarcrest) finished out the top 5 with a 19:48.
Reagan’s last sprint put her in the runner up spot but her team, on the strength of all five girls finishing in the top 21 overall, took the overall title for the girls D2-AA division. I believe coming into this race, there wasn’t much doubt that Harpeth Hall would get that title, it was just what was their point total going to be… it was a 66… could have been a throwback to Route 66 which was the first highway in the nation to allow cars to hit some pretty fast speed limits. I’m always impressed with this Harpeth Hall team and how they put such focus on the team aspect of all their sports! A great job by Emma, Abby Sparrow (20:21), Carline Daniel (20:25), Elizabeth singleton (21:00) and Lara Nunn (21:06). Actually, their seventh place finisher came in 35th overall… so a pretty impressive run among all that team! Brentwood Academy came in runner up with 80 points and Girls Preparatory School finished third with 93 points.
Unlike how the girl’s races started, in the boys D2 AA race, a lot of runners took off to the front but not all of them were the ones who finished in that spot. But McCallie’s Dylan Carmack and Father Ryan’s Ben Weisel did make it to the lead pack during the first half mile of the race. Those two decided to stay in that order all the way to the finish line with Dylan finishing in 15:57 and Ben in 16:09. The next few spots weren’t decided until the last 600 meters with Brentwood Academy’s Will Boling (16:21.43) in third place with the distance left but a fast charging Perce Rose (Memphis University School) making a big surge to catch up. In that last stretch, Pierce was able to pass a couple of guys to get within less than a tenth of a second to overtaking Will and giving him the fourth place spot with 16:21.52. The fifth place spot went to a gutsy 8th grader who did his best to stay near the top almost the whole race – Carter Cheesman (16:24.11). Carter was less than a second ahead of 6th place finisher Will Peters from Montgomery Bell. That was a fun finish to watch!
There really was little doubt that Brentwood Academy was going to win based on the strength they had from their last year’s team. MUS was probably the only team to give them a run for their money with their strength at the top but just needed more depth to make it happen. With a young Carter racing like he did Saturday, looks like BA will be holding that top spot for a while. The remaining three that scored for BA were Joshua Bell (16:32), Andrew Powell (16:55) and Charles Bennett (17:06). Only one of those BA boys is a senior and so the other D2AA teams will need to start working now to give these boys a run next year!
What do the numbers 1, 2, 6, 7, 10 and 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 have in common? Not a whole lot, other than they add up to 47 and that number is better than the point total for either the boys or the girls D2-A second place finisher. Webb School of Knoxville came into this meet an obvious favorite and they clearly did not disappoint for both the girls and the boys races. The Webb girls got first and second – Peighton Meske (19:00) and Niki Narayani (19:32). The Webb boys did exactly the same with Reece Rose (16:29) winning the division and teammate Carter Coughlin (16:42) taking runner up. Having all five runners – boys and girls – in the top ten certainly makes it hard to beat and it showed as both got the team titles with ease! Earlier that day I ran into the coach in the hotel and when I asked what he expected, he said he had some high hopes but you never know. Then he took his athletes out for an upbeat but short nerve relaxing jog. Confident but cautious and just wanting the athletes to have some fun on a cold and windy day. That’s how you coach this sport!
Getting back to the girls race, the third through fifth places were split up with Niamh Schumacher (King’s Academy) in third with 19:52, Ella Steinhilber (USN) fourth in 20:19 and Webb’s third girl, Bekah White, in fifth with a 21:06. University School of Nashville was the only team to get close but clearly not enough to catch Webb. The boy’s race was about the same, with USN giving the only chase to Webb in the team race. The boys top five was finished off with University School of Jackson’s Jack Goodwin (16:54) in third, his teammate, Sam Darnall in fourth just sneaking in under 17 with a 16:59.38 and USN’s Jacob Robinson leading his team with a 17:05 and fifth place finish.
I do believe Webb School of Knoxville is setting a very high standard for this division and it’s going to take some hard work and a lot of focus to upset the roll this school is on.
Saving the largest two races of the day for the end, the weather still didn’t warm up and at times, the wind felt like it was gusting even more. But then again, cold and windy…. A few more gusts really didn’t matter! There were 186 girls in the AAA race and 192 for the boy’s race. A lot of runners to finish off a day of celebrating the state’s best cross country athletes! Let’s see how it ended up….
The AAA girls division had some pretty potent athletes with a handful ranked in the top 20 for the state. With Morristown West having three girls from their team all ranked in the top 13, they were the favorite to take the team title but they also had contenders for the top spot in the individual contest. From near the first mile, a fairly large pack of athletes from Beech, Morristown-West, Ooltewah, Hillboro, and Ravenwood. This pack stayed together for a short while until spreading out a little as they approached the finish. Cherie Wilson certainly made sure Morristown West was on top with her sprint to the finish win in 18:30 over runner up Annika Sleenhof of Ravenwood (18:33). Beech athlete Julia Rizor was third overall in 18:47, followed by Cherie’s teammate, Chantal Wilson (18:51) and Ooltewah senior Josie Grube (18:53) getting the fifth spot. There were only two senior athletes in the top 5 and only five in the top 15 overall at this race. That only means that the competition can only get better and better in the next several years! For that matter, there were four freshman in the top fifteen finishers at this race. Now how good is that!
The girls team race as I said was all Morristown West from the get go. However, at the start of the race, I was a little unsure how it would pan out. At first I thought Ravenwood had the runner up spot off the strength of Annika’s finish. But then I remembered seeing a crowd of Houston girls running together earlier in the race and as they approach the finish, still together, I thought that may be giving them an edge. But then right among them were a couple of Ravenwood girls (Addison White and Julia Henderson) and I thought they may be giving them the edge. But in the end, it came down to Houston and how they ran close together and pushed each other to get the runner up spot for their team.
It’s funny too because Houston only had one girl in the top 10, and that was freshman Ella Baron who finished 10th in 19:12. Houston’s next four girls coming in were 19th team finisher Shian Mallory (19:46), 30th team finisher Emma Reed (20:14), Maddie Lindemann (31st in 20:16), and in the fifth spot for Houston was Amelia Baran with a 20:22. And let’s look for Houston next year to be close to the top with only Emma as their lone senior in the group.
The very last race of the day, and yes it was still cold, was the boys AAA division. As the start of this day of races had the top girls with the A-AA division, the very last race – this boys AAA – has the top ranked boys in the state. Senior Adam Barnard of Daniel Boone is the state’s top ranked cross country runner and he showed his stuff on this day for sure. Adam won in 15:43 and clearly put his mark on Tennessee cross country with this race and his high school cross country career. With his nasal strip across his nose, Adam stayed inside the lead pack for quite a while until finally breaking out and pushing to the lead in this very fast race! Second place sent to Brodey Hasty of Brentwood HS in 15:50. And then it was a back and forth finishes for Daniel Boone and Brentwood. Third was James Garst of Daniel Boone (15:51), then his teammate, Josh Routh in fourth with a 16:05. In fifth was Brentwood’s Gavin Hasty in 16:08.
That means three Daniel Boone athletes in the top five and two from Brentwood. And that means that Daniel Boone took the top team title in the process. With Ben Varghese capturing the fourth team spot for Daniel Boone in 16:39 and Mitch Bronstetter’s 16:48, these guys finished off the AAA team title a strong 17 points ahead of second place Brentwood High School.
I’m sure that all these athletes are probably thinking to themselves … it wasn’t that cold… it wasn’t that windy… and I didn’t miss the sun at all! I finished the state championship! And for that, every single one of these athletes should be given a standing ovation!! What a day of cross country racing! Just pure and simple… a great day to race cross country!
See you on the track… and the grass!