Knoxville Athletes Cap off Historic Year at Foot Locker

East Tennessee had a big year on cross country courses across the state.

But this past weekend provided an opportunity for the region to shine nationally.

The city of Knoxville was represented well at the 2017 Foot Locker National Championships. 

Jake Renfree, Carter Coughlin and Rebecca Story all advanced to last Saturday's meet in San Diego. All three left their mark on state and national competition this season.

Saturday was no exception.

Renfree might have been the surprise of the weekend. The Knoxville Catholic junior surged through the field over the final mile to finish fifth. 

He was seeded 50th in the South region and finished eighth in order to qualify. And that wasn't even his biggest performance of the season.

Renfree told Milesplit's Cory Mull on Saturday that the confidence he gained at the region meet paid major dividends in California.

"Confidence was building throughout that race," Renfree said. "I knew I could do something here. I wanted the South to come out strong and win."

Originally, Renfree's plan was to go out conservatively. That is, until he realized he was in last place.

So he made a move.

And it was a big one.

"I knew I had to pick it up there....throughout the regular season I had been kind of iffy on the second half. I just wanted to stay strong in the second was the last race of the year and I didn't want to finish with any regrets so I kept going," he said.

Renfree finished fourth at the state meet over a month ago, leading his team to a runner-up finish in a new division. All season, he'd been battling with Webb's Carter Coughlin at the front of most local meets.

But on Saturday, he and Coughlin were on the same team.

In the final mile of Saturday's race, he worked with his fellow East Tennessean in order to lead the South team to a win. 

It worked out pretty well for both of them.

"I saw Carter Cheeseman and Carter Coughlin up there and I just wanted to be with them and try to get as many people as possible counting for the South," Renfree said.

Coughlin had a pretty good day too. He finished 15th in his final high school race, despite things not going how he expected.

Overall, he was pleased with how the race went.

"The first mile we went out pretty slow, which was kind of a shock to me," he said. "I felt really good through one (mile) and then at the two (mile) I started to fade a little bit but I was able to hold on to the end."

Coughlin has been out in front at some point of every race he's run this season in Tennessee. He also won his third straight state championship back on November 4th.

But finishing as an All-American? That's definitely the highlight.

"My whole season has been really good," he added. "This season has been one for the books. But this is the best way I could've finished it."

Although CAK's Rebecca Story didn't have the race she hoped for at Balboa Park, the Stanford signee still had a spectacular season. 

Story wasn't thrilled with her final race. But the disappointing final result was accompanied by a bit of perspective.

One tough day doesn't diminish just how good of a season she had.

"Obviously disappointed, not the race I intended to have," Story said after the race on Saturday. "Every runner is going to go through that at some point. I'm happy with how my season went as a whole and I'm really proud of how everyone did today."

Story's 34th place finish against a loaded field certainly doesn't define her season. But it does serve as a good motivator.

She still has one more track season in Knoxville before joining the Cardinal. 

And it can't come soon enough.

"I'm feeling really hungry for track season right now. I think I just need to take a couple weeks off and kind of regroup. Today was definitely not an indication of my fitness level or where I'm at," Story said.

Having three representatives in San Diego is huge for Knoxville. But these three athletes weren't just there for the good weather and cool gear.

They made some major noise.

Story and Coughlin will join the college ranks next season having left behind a legacy and precedent for national success in East Tennessee.

Renfree, on the other hand, will continue on with this momentum for one more season in high school.

2017 will be remembered as a remarkably successful year for Tennessee runners on the national stage. And this season, a large portion of that success is based out of Knoxville.