JR Ward Preview

Coach Ted Talk:  Meet Preview of the TN Classic

With the talk lately being focused so much on the weather, I thought I'd start out with that topic.  According to the forecast, this year's TN Classic may just have some of the best weather it's had in years!  Low humidity, in the 70's in the morning and getting up towards the mid-80's by the time the last race finishes.  That's not a bad day.  But as usual, it's the weather forecast.... The only job in the world that they can be wrong half the time!  But anyways, I expect to see some good racing on the Steeplechase course this Saturday - I know I'm not wrong about that!

I really do have some high expectations for the races this Saturday.  Some of the best in the state are scheduled to compete.  On the boy's side, McCallie, Franklin, Bartlett are probably the top teams heading into this meet and all are in the Gold division so should make that class an exciting battle.  It's kind of a tossup between McCallie and Franklin as to which may be the best here but I've watched Bartlett this season and over the last couple of years and they aren't to be counted out by any means.  It seems they start are strong... then get even better as the season goes along!  And being from Memphis, I'm giving the nod over to the Bartlett team to come through Saturday! 

The lead pack for the guys should be an interesting race.  The top runner in the state, with a top five national mark of 14:52.89 should be considered the favorite coming into the meet.  Silas has really grown into this top dog spot.  Talking with Silas before some races, it seems he has a pretty laid back approach to a race and he doesn't seem to show the nerves as much as some.  That may be from the fact that he's the younger brother of some of the fastest distance runners we've seen in the state over the years and so he stays a bit in the shadows or maybe just slides away from the limelight most of the time.

But I've got some news for Silas... coming into this meet with a sub 15 puts a target on his back.   Add in leg speed of a sub-2 for the 800 and a 4:12 for the mile... that leaves only one thing left... and that is to perform!! 

Silas will have to do just that.  There's a few athletes entered this Saturday that Silas has seen the back of their jersey too many times recently.  Even if that too many times is only once, it's still too much!  The Memphis Twilight race a few weeks ago is one that could be just in the back of Silas's thoughts as he lines up.  A couple of athletes scheduled to compete are Evan Allen (Chester County) and Miles Ally (MLK).  Both these guys came in ahead of Silas at the Twilight.  Both these guys are ranked in the top 5 of the state as well and having the opportunity to challenge the number 1 guy is always going to bring out your best. 

Evan won the Twilight and in a PR time as well and so that confidence should prove an advantage Saturday.  And it's a good time to get in a practice on the State course too!  This senior has progressed steadily over the past few years.  He set a 9:40.01 PR for the 3200 track distance and notched another PR for the 1600 this past track season.  His 5K PR at the Twilight was a 30 second improvement and both the track PR's were also significant improvements.  That's a trend that makes you want to keep a close eye on this guy, especially if the race is tight at the end. 

And speaking of progression, Miles Ally's 2019 track season was a bevy of personal best records with times really significant.  Hitting a 2:00.66 in the 800 is one that raises my eyebrows.  He also ran a 16:08 at the Dickson Invite the other day and if you've ever seen that course, then you know what that time means.  Very strong runner, with speed... that's what it means!  Combine that leg speed, strength, starting out the season at the Twilight with a new PR... I would expect to see Miles as one of the lead runners on Saturday.  


On the girl's side of the meet, we should see excitement here as well!   A handful of top 10 ranked TN athletes will duke it out on the steeplechase course.  Leigh Walters (Fred J. Paige) has the better season bests among a pretty talented group scheduled to race Saturday.  She won the Voyles Classic the other day running 18:04.   Just a couple seconds behind that is Dinah Winders (Henry County).  She's ran 18:06.94 the other day to set a new PR for the distance and clearly giving her some confidence for Saturday.  These two athletes have gone head to head several times and for the most part, Leigh has had the upper hand.  Leigh's PR, set last year, is 18:01 and after running just three seconds off that, is certainly not going to make it easy for Dinah or the other competitors.

And among those other competitors, Maryville's Andie-Marie Jones.  Andie-Marie should be giving a good chase as she just set a new PR in the 5K distance.  She also had a pretty solid track season last year and I would say her 10:50 3200 time that got her a runner up spot at the state championships is a good indication that she can hold some speed in the longer runs.  I would expect Andie-Marie to be among the front runners at this race. 

Looking at the potential team standings here, as usual, Houston and Brentwood Academy seem to gravitate to the top of the heap!  I think this will be pretty close here but Brentwood Academy's front runners might just be the key to them taking home the top spot. 

Kylie Wittman (19:29) and Elizabeth Heckman (19:43) are both pretty experienced on the track and the cross distance.  Although Kylie hasn't passed her PR in the 5K for a while, last track season was a pretty solid one for her and so she is coming into this cross country season on a high note for sure.  Elizabeth is right there behind her and after dropping 3200 and 1600 on the track last year, is poised to make this cross country season a strong one!  Whitney Powell is also a strong senior runner for this BA team

On the Houston side, Madeline Harreld is the front runner for the team with her 19:54 mark which is just ahead of Annabel Leonard's 19:59.  With those two runners so closely matched, and their third runner, Brenna Riseling also nearby, this team could work together and push that top spot.  However, with that said, Brenna was the best of the lot at the Memphis Twilight and Annabel finished ahead of Madeline there as well.  A lot of times in cross country when the athletes can work together as a team in a race, the results are usually pretty good.  And when there's a chance for some internal competition on who is the best, well, that just adds fuel to the fire! 


It's a bit difficult to say who will end up on the top, but BA tends to come out strong and Houston has a pretty seasoned group that could be tough to beat.  I'm leaning towards Houston since I'm from the Memphis area, but I've also seen how well the BA team has run every single season so I have no doubt this will be a very - very - close race!

This is the 41st annual TN Classic and it's being filled with over 1,000 athletes!  That's a pretty long running cross country tradition.  I've also noticed that a lot of Memphis area teams are making the trek to the Steeplechase.  That's good to see and likely a good test on how the training towards State is going.  Good luck to all

See you on the track AND the grass!

Coach Ted