Weekend Takeaways: A Month From State

We're a month away from the state meet. Times are dropping with the temperature, conference meets are starting up and region is right around the corner.

Another season has flown by.

A staple of the cross country season is always Jesse Owens down in Alabama. This season, it was another huge benchmark for personal bests as the season starts to wrap up.

Sasha Neglia put down a huge season best time of 17:18 to top the Tennessee leaderboards. Neglia's winning time puts her No. 24 in the country. She's the sixth-fastest junior in the country at this point in the season.

I always told myself that the time I ran right before conference would be the mark I could hit in a month at the state championship. It's common to run your best time at the beginning of October in Tennessee. Steeplechase is such a challenging course to finish your season on that you often don't know how fast you really are at the beginning of November. But I always made a point to set my time from this past weekend as my goal for the state championship.

Jesse Owens is a dream to run. It's flat, the surface is soft and the competition is solid. Along with Trinity in Louisville, it's the best opportunity to set a big personal best.

Cookeville sophomore Landri Wilcox also took advantage of the outstanding conditions. Wilcox continued her impressive season, putting down a 17:44 to finish right behind Neglia. That's a new personal best for Wilcox, who ran 18:08 to finish third at the Cherokee Classic earlier this fall.

Science Hill freshman Jenna Hutchins is now in the top ten for freshman girls in the United States. And she did it on a grueling course in North Carolina.

The Great American Cross Country festival provides an excellent first look at the Nike Southeast course. And it's as fun a meet as you'll find in the country. The worn down gravel surface, the downhill start, the crowd...it feels like a huge competition...and usually the times reflect that.

Hutchins' new season-best certainly did. Her 17:40 as a first-timer on that course is quite impressive. And it stacks up right with Neglia's time on a much faster course in Alabama. Those two will have some fun battles moving forward.

Running without its top runner, TN No. 1 Brentwood Academy performed well in the boys race of champions at Great American. Matthew McMillan did not race, but the Eagles still managed to average 16:35 on the tough course, led by senior Matthew Porter (15:41). 

Science Hill senior Jeb Jones also put down an impressive time. Jones ran the fastest time by a Tennessee boy over the weekend, finishing 18th at Great American in 15:26. He could have a shot to be in the mix for a spot at Nike Nationals in November if he can improve on that time on Thanksgiving Weekend. Hilltoppers junior Aaron Jones also impressed -- he ran 16:11 to finish in 75th in the prestigious race of champions.

So another weekend is done. And state is (somehow) right around the corner. Times will keep getting faster. And teams will continue to improve.

We can't wait for state!