Coach Ted: Best Memphis Performers to Open the Week

Recap of the Memphis area athletes at the Twilight!

We now have two of the three "nighttime" cross country races in the Memphis area in the history books.   Ok, maybe that was a bit dramatic... two down and one to go!  The City Auto Twilight race was billed to be a huge, competitive, spectator friendly, and fast race.  The course was changed slightly to accommodate a new parking area.  In my opinion, the course is much better now than in the past.  That first steep turn as everyone funneled together was changed slightly and didn't seem as steep.  Still scary with all those runners hitting it at the same time though.  Finishing up on the first loop, the hill there didn't seem as steep either.  But it seemed longer.  Yea, it was longer.  But the fast and competitive billing... well, it was exactly that and more! 

For three years in a row, this girls' varsity race has been won by a Freshman!  Presley Miles (Saint James) won it in 2017, Dinah Winders in 2018, and this year Ciara O'Shea took the title in a blazing 18:07.17.  Ciara is a freshman from Kentucky's Madison Central.  The race was billed to be a competition between two past champions in Presley and Dinah.  But in the end, Ciara decided to push her way into this elite pairing.  And push she did.  She entered the stadium with a lead of about 23 seconds but that still wasn't enough as she broke the finishing tape with about a 27 second lead!     

These top three girls all ran under 19 minutes, with Dinah posting an 18:46.69, Presley an 18:34.80.  Now, I'm just wondering what 8th grader is out there today looking at this meet as her chance to shine next year.  Or better yet, which of these top three champions is going to come back next year and try to break under that 18 mark!  None of the freshman winners in this meet has come back to defend her title, so it remains to be seen if Ciara can do it next year!  I certainly wouldn't mind seeing these three next year duke it out and get that "multiple winner" title under her belt for this competition.  And yes, I do believe that is a challenge!! 

So, on to the local women.  I almost want to put the Winders family into the "local" group and only because Henry County isn't that far away and mostly because this race is almost a homecoming for them each and every season.  And maybe too, because when it comes to racing, they are noted for doing the right thing - win or not win, they support the meets regularly when it's appropriate to do so.  They've certainly made the Twilight a family affair, and that is an understatement.  But they compete in the Nashville zones and so I have to refrain - at least for now!

So the real true top local finisher, St. George's lead runner, Allison Newman made sure she was in the top spot this year.  It wasn't easy though.  It took a gut wrenching kick in the final thirty meters to overtake Arlington's Ann-Marie Braese by just 0.02 of a second!   It wasn't a PR for Allison but it was a little better finish at this meet than last year.  Actually, Allison continues to improve every time she lines up at this race.  Her first shot at this was a 10th place, last year was 7th and this year a 5th.  Her performance at this early season meet seems to project what she does at the State championships as well.  As she starts out the year improving, so does the end of season meet in November show improvements!  

Arlington's Ann-Marie made an unassuming entry to the Memphis Twilight back in 2016 with a 17th place finish for the 2K middle school event.  She then came back the following year to get a 4th place in a little over 7 minutes.  Now being a sophomore in high school, she jumps into the 5K at the Twilight and gets a 6th place finish - keeping her in another top 10 finish at this race.  This no doubt is a good forecast on her possibly jumping up one spot in the 8-AAA championships later this season.   

Also getting into the top ten spot for this meet was St. George's freshman Lauren Rutlin.  Following Lauren was Sarah McDonald breaking into the 20 twenty at 18 with a 20:26 finish.  Not that it was a surprise, but St. George's took this meet seriously and ended up tallying 105 points to get a solid second place overall and the title of being the top local team!  With five runners in the meet, and the top four squeaking into the top 25, this team is starting out strong and possibly making a bit of a prediction for that one Race the first Saturday of November.  Well, you just never know, do you! 


The next best local women's team, was a team that isn't typically used to coming in second to anything.  With the help of the leading runners, Brenna Riseling (20:31) and Annabel Leonard (20:39), Houston's girls squad took the runner up spot for local teams this season.   Arlington was the third best local team just a handful of points from Houston.  No doubt Ann-Marie helped that cause, but having Olivia Barnes (20:24) get a top 16 finish was also huge in points race for this team this season.  Three of the top 5 finishing teams were from the Memphis area in the Girls Varsity class and that does bode well for the level of competition this side of the State!

At 8:40pm, over 300 guys lined up in their boxes to start the High School Boys Varsity race.  Within the first mile, the Huntsville Alabama team made it very clear they were the team to beat.  Their runners stayed in a fairly tight pack just behind the top few runners.  Jackson Danner (16:09), was the first Huntsville teammate across the line and that was in the 8th overall spot.  You'd think they needed a first or second place finish to take the team title, but that obviously wasn't the case.  Jackson tagged the 6th place spot for the team competition.  Then be ready to get impressed - his teammates came in 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th in team positions.  That's 40 points.  And that's tight!  That finish got them a win by 85 points to the second place team from Bartlett.  And that seems like a blow out, it kind of is.  But by no means is Bartlett a bad team. 

On the contrary, Bartlett's second place overall spot was the best out of all the local teams.  But getting all five of your team to finish in the top 10 of a race, well, kind of hard to do much but sit back and be impressed!

Setting a PR and jumping to the top of the cross country rankings with his win at the Twilight, was Evan Allen of Chester County.  Following Evan, was the first local finisher with Arlington's Jackson Williams in a new PR of 15:38.28. 

That PR put Jackson in the #2 spot in the cross country rankings.  I've talked a lot about Jackson in previous seasons with his head to head battles with other local competition.  Looks to me like this season, Jackson is ready to take the top local spot and he's not looking back!  He's had to fight off a very talented group at this Twilight race and with this PR in only his second race of the season, looks like he's on track to tackle anyone at the state meet in November.  Keep it going Jackson, we're all rooting for you!! 

As I mentioned, with their 125 points and a runner up finish overall, the Bartlett team garnered the title of best local boys team at the Twilight!   Their scorers on the team were bunched together pretty well with finishing spots at 15, 20, 27, 30 and 33.  Landen McNair was the lead off guy in 16:40 and he and Robert Dawson (16:56) both cracked the top 20 in team positions and that's always a good sign.  The remaining three Rylee Hertter (17:08), Elliot Garst (17:12) and Travis Jones (17:16) all were only a few seconds apart and likely that helped them work together to carry them thru the finish and get the overall runner up team spot at this Twilight. 


With Jackson's runner up finish, that put Arlington as the second best local team to finish.  They were able to get 4th overall in the team standings as well and clearly ahead of the 5th place team.  Twenty-three points behind the Bartlett team isn't a lot but still enough to have them thinking a bit on what they have to do come November.  I'll be curious to see how these teams stack up when the Frank Horton comes around... that's usually a pretty good test on what November will look like as well. 

The way the Christian Brothers University team puts this race together, always having great competition and always very well organized, there's no doubt why this is so well received each and every season!  So many great runners head to this course from all over the place!  This race is truly becoming a tradition for Tennessee as well as several other States!  Always a pleasure to be at this race and always looking forward to the next one!  Great job CBU! 

See you on the grass... Coach Ted