Baylor Outruns Hoover, Oak Ridge at McCallie Invitational

The Baylor Red Raiders arrived at Greenway Farms this morning in Chattanooga, Tennessee rather inconspicuously. No buses painted with their school's name and logo. No big yellow school bus. Not even a team van. They showed up individually, most driving their own cars or car-pooling with a teammate. They didn't have a team tent, either. Nor did they have a sign proclaiming their team's location. Just a collection of duffel bags, water bottles, and spikes marked their team's base location for the day, on a weathered tennis court about four-hundred meters from where the rest of the fifteen teams present for the McCallie Invitational had set up shop for the day. After most of Baylor's mens team had arrived, a yellow car covered in bumper stickers with a bike rack on the back pulled in--ignoring the collegiate runners directing traffic--and parked next to the tennis court. Out climbed Van Townsend and his son, Skylar. Though lacking parades and other festivities often found when warriors leave for battle, the Red Raiders were ready to fight.

A couple hours later, the varsity mens race was complete. Rumors began to circulate about team scores. Word hit the Baylor squad that a Hoover (AL) parent had kept score and that the Red Raiders had won by ten points.

No pomp and circumstance. Just show up and run. And that's why they win.

Well, that and the fabulous pack running in addition to two up front, week in and week out. It's why they've jumped from being a bubble-team in Nike Team Nationals rankings to SE#9 as of Friday afternoon, to beating SE#6 Oak Ridge this morning.

In the first mile, Dobyns-Bennett senior Joshua Vasquez and Brentwood High School senior Sean Keveren took point with a pack of three including Knoxville West High School's Matt Sonnenfeldt, Baylor School's Waldo Du Plessis, and Oak Ridge High School's Maclean O'Donnell just behind them.

During their cool-down run, Keveren and Du Plessis discussed the race.

"I pulled away from Vasquez just before the second mile," Keveren, who lead Vasquez by five seconds at the two mile mark, said. Sean won the race in 15:21. "I knew exactly what he was going to do before the race started.

"It was probably about 1.9 miles into the race," chimed in Waldo Du Plessis, who finished twenty-seven seconds behind Keveren for second place. "I saw Sean start moving on Vasquez and that's when I started moving. But it was really hot out. Cooler weather would have been better."

I was really happy with my second mile, which was around 4:56, despite the two hills," Keveren continued. "The last mile, mostly uphill, felt pretty strong despite the fact that the pace feel off a few seconds. Nonetheless, overall I was pretty happy with the race. I feel that getting a PR with the heat is something to be happy about and I feel I am where I should be for the season."

Everyone kept talking about last week.

"If only it were as cool as last week."

"I wish the weather from Classic had carried over."

"Where did this heat come from? What happened to last week?"

The heat could have played a big factor, too. In a sense, it did. It showed Baylor's depth. Skylar Townsend, their consistent third or fourth runner, dropped out of the race just after two miles due to the heat. Bill Matthews finished several places further back then expected. But even with two runners struggling, Baylor still won convincingly over three other ranked teams.

"It all comes down to (Colorado University coach Mark) Wetmore's quote, 'When you live on Monster Island, someone's breathing fire every day.' Last week, Mike (Meadows) was the fire-breathing dragon. This week it was Brandon (Lord), who filled in when Skylar (Townsend) dropped," Baylor's head coach Van Townsend said about the victory. "That we won on a day when two of our guys didn't have great races is a tribute to not only the front guys, but our three through seven guys as well."

Host team McCallie's top harrier, Riley Young, was forced to drop out of the race fifty feet after the first mile marker due to a lingering calf injury.

On the ladies side, Allie Scalf of NTN bubble-team Science Hill High School took the individual title by twelve seconds over Hoover (AL)--also a bubble-team--runner Nicole Muldowney. Team-wise, a very quiet SE#6 Oak Ridge beat up on both Science Hill and Hoover, with a score of 48 (67 for Hoover, 118 for Science Hill). Oak Ridge had a strong pack of girls, with all seven of their runners in the top twenty-five. They placed 5, 6, 9, 10, 18, 22, 25.

"Will, you need to ask me one more question," Sean Keveren told me as I ran a cool down with Waldo Du Plessis and him. "My teammates have been bugging me. Ask me about my training."

Ok. So what's your training been like, Sean?

"Well, actually, I don't train at all anymore. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!"

Dan Miles video From the Meet