The Best from the West!
Memphis races this season seemed to hit the high notes when it came to the weather. High heat. High Humidity. High heat warnings forced schedule changes and postponed or cancelled meets. But good news, this past Saturday the weather was near perfect for the runners... maybe a little cool for spectators, but it's the athletes that took the priority Saturday. And if anybody noticed, the course had a lot more paint on it this year. I wonder why??
Anyways, let's get on with this review of how the Memphis area athletes performed at the State championships. Starting with the girls, here is a run-down of the top ten performances by both boys and girls at the State meet.
Just over a 4 second improvement and one up on the podium from last year's state meet, Allison Newman was clearly the cream of the crop for the Memphis athletes this Saturday. Allison made sure she was ready for these end of season big meets. This state meet win was pretty much a validation to her dominating win in the D2-A west region championship. With her 18:52.79 time, she led her Gryphons team to the state title as well. She also comes in as the fastest female Memphis area athlete of the meet and one of two that broke under the 19-minute barrier.
The second girl to break under 19 was the lead runner for the Arlington team. Ann-Marie Braese made a huge improvement from last year's 19:42 time and just over 4 seconds away from her PR with her time that just clipped that tough 19 obstacle. With 18:59.16, she gets the runner up spot on the list for the fastest female out of the Memphis area at State. A good way to prepare for the State championships is to set a new PR coming into the meet. That's exactly what she did the week before in her win at the Region 8 championships! Not a bad way to enter the end of season meets.
In the bronze position was St. George's Lauren Rutlin. This athlete may be a freshman but she has had some strong performances during her middle school career that likely contributed to her veteran like season. She started the year with an 8th place finish at the Memphis Twilight and minus one meet, kept a steady improvement to the point where her 19:02.12 second place finish at the state meet also set her new Personal Best. And anyone who has run the Steeplechase course knows it is not an easy place to set a personal best time... and Saturday for the most part was a slow running day with the somewhat wet course.
FACS's Abbie Baker made the top three for the Memphis area coming in a swift 19:17.02. Having run very few races this season, the State course time was a bit off her PR set earlier at the Memphis Youth Athletics Meet. The steeplechase course will do that to you!
Houston's Gracey Owens is another younger athlete showing up big time on the big stage. Gracey was the runner up at the Region 8 championships where she went under the 20-minute mark for the first time to set a PR of 19:42. Her time of 19:47.15 at the state meet was impressive enough to set her up as the #5 Memphis female finisher this weekend. Following her race at the TN Classic in September where the Houston girls won the team event, Gracey has consistently improved her times all the way thru the end of the season. With sub 20's the last two - big - meets, she definitely is showing her potential and helping this Houston team go from a bit of a sleeper to the top of the heap again!
Coming in the number sixth spot for Memphis athletes was another top St. George's athlete, Sarah McDonald. Sarah's 20:26 time was her best time at state for the senior athlete and looks like she is poised to make her senior track season a successful one too! Sarah took the #3 spot for the Gryphons team and fourth place overall for her Division.
Another Arlington runner gets on this top ten list. Shelby Udovich was the second Memphis area athlete in the D1 large school class to cross the finish line. Her 20:27.72 was about a minute and a half better than her time at the state course last season. Anyone improving that much is going to certainly put you on anybody's radar as one to keep a close eye on!!
A couple of Houston athletes earn the 8th and 9th spots for Memphis athletes. Madeline Harreld, another top Houston runner was the second runner in this Houston squad that came in 6th overall and first Memphis team spot at the State meet. She ran 20:27.98 which was almost exactly the same time she ran earlier in the Region 8 championships where she earned a fifth place spot. To capture the 3rd fastest Houston team spot, Annabel Leonard ran a 20:32.35. That time was her fastest at the state meet and surprisingly enough was also the exact same position she ran last season at the meet. Annabel's time was also 2 seconds off the Houston's team average of 20:34! Now that's being a team player for sure!
Rounding out the 10th fastest girls from the Memphis area are two Briarcrest Saints athletes (yes, I know, that adds up to 11 but I'm invoking my editorial license here). Felicity Bost (20:33.48) made sure her debut at the State meet for the Briarcrest Saints was a good one. With only a couple of official meets under her belt this season due to transfer rules, running to a 9th spot overall in the hugely competitive D2 Large school division is very impressive. This only is going to get better as she acclimates to the new division, school and training program. Of course, her strength is on the oval (2:16 in the 800!) and this success with such a short racing season should set her up for some great track times to come! She also was the first Briarcrest athlete to cross the line and lead the team to the best Memphis finishing team in the D2 large school's division.
Just behind Felicity and running her fastest time on this tough State course was teammate Kat Harris. Kat is a sophomore just getting her legs into the sport of cross country and track. Coming in 11th place for the D2 large schools and showing improvement on each and every race this season is certainly going to bring some confidence for this sophomore runner. Interesting fact here too, Kat runs cross country and 800 on the track but is also a high jumper (5'2" best) - the interesting thing though is that her Mom did the same thing! Kat rounds out the top 10 overall female athlete performances at the State meet.
For the girls at State, we had five that came from the large D1 Large schools, three from the D2 Small school division and two from the D2 Large school class. That is a very spread out and diverse group. However, here's something interesting. Houston, St. George's and Briarcrest make up for 8 of the top 10 best Memphis area performances at the State meet. I haven't measured exactly, but these three schools are probably within 5,000 meters from each other and just off the Houston-Levee roadway. That's a lot of talent coming out of pretty small area!
On the team side, it appears the best team at state for the girls from Memphis has to go to the St. George's team for their dominating State Champion win in the D2 Small School division. These girls averaged 20:18 in that impressive win. They had a total of 25 points - that means they placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 10th in the team competition for each runner. Houston's girls did a great job as well with an average time of 20:34. That time was 16 seconds behind the St. George's team which shows just how strong that win was for the Gryphons! Impressive!
Now let's take a look at how the boys performed on the Steeplechase course Saturday.
For most of this cross country season, Arlington's Jackson Williams has been dominating when he lines up to race. He started out the season with an impressive win at the Myrtle Invitational in New Albany MS. Then followed that up with a very competitive runner up spot at the largest race in the area, the Memphis Twilight. He then won the Frank Horton, got a runner up at Chile Pepper, then pushed his way to the top of the podium in the Region 8 championships. So his 4th place finish at State may have been a bit behind what he hoped, this race was a gut busting race with the best competition in the state. Jackson ran this course (15:49.96) about half a minute faster than he has ever run it and proved he's - hands down - one of the best in the Memphis area. Jackson was the only Memphis area finisher under the 16 mark and there were only a total of 6 athletes at the state meet with that accomplishment.
Bartlett - Landen McNair - 16:14.23 (13th overall, 1st T). Landen McNair was the lead off guy for the Bartlett group that was able to secure a runner up Team finish this season! Landen ran a 16:14.23 which was just a couple of seconds off his PR and so you know he was running strong at this meet. He was the runner up at the Region 8 championship, so was coming into this meet with some confidence.
The third and fourth fastest guys at the state meet, which certainly had a lot to do to help their team standings, were Bartlett's Robert Dawson (16:41) and Rylee Hertter (16:43). Both these Bartlett guys ran their fastest time for the State championship, with Rylee making the biggest improvement on this course by more than half a minute. Robert came into the State meet off a strong 3rd place finish at the Region 8 championships and Rylee a 6th spot. The impressive part of all this though is how closely matched all these Bartlett boys are. With a 1:09 for their 1 to 5 split and an average of 16:48 for the team, that's some good stats for a team that's not made up totally of seniors.
The last Memphis area guy under the 17-minute mark was Arlington's Owen Young. His 16:46.69 put him as the second runner on the Arlington team, fifth fastest for Memphis athletes, and kept his streak alive of getting under the 17-minute mark in races. From a top 20 finish at the Memphis Twilight to a 16:04 PR during the season to the fifth fastest guy at the state meet is a pretty good start and finish for this senior!
The Bartlett guys just seemed to dominate the Memphis area boys this season. Travis Jones (17:01.57) comes in as the 6th fastest Memphis athletes. Travis was the number four runner for the Bartlett team.
In a field of athletes dominated by the Division 1 large schools, Christian Brothers High School sophomore Jake Ryan (17:07.20) gave the D2 schools their only top 10 Memphis area bests. Jake snagged a 9th place finish in his division and ran almost 40 seconds faster than he did last season at the State meet. That's a notable improvement and being a freshman will certainly have people keeping a close eye on this athlete's future. And by the way, Jake led the CBHS team to the best team finish by Memphis schools in the D2 large school division.
Squeezing themselves into the top ten mix were Arlington teammates Alex McCreary and Christian Stephens. Alex finishing in the 8th spot in 17:08 and Christian #9 in 17:12.83. Not being left out, Jake Arnold ran a 17:22 to give Houston a lone guy in the top ten of the Memphis area finishers at the state meet.
On the team side, Bartlett boys had finishers coming in 8th, 16th, 17th, 35th, and 54th are clearly the best team from the Memphis area. They fought hard to beat out Central Magnet by 6 points to get the runner up spot for the team competition at the state championships. Their guys averaged an impressive 16:48!
Some of these on the list may just continue on to some of the other cross country meets and some will take a rest and prepare for possibly an indoor season. Whatever direction they might choose to go, I'm certainly hoping to see them all on the oval come this spring! These are some impressive athletes that make the Memphis area folks proud!
See you on the track and the grass!!