Five Runners to Watch: Division One Small Schools

Camden Central sophomore Will Douglas (right) is a name to remember at Thursday's state meet

Five names in each division. 

That's what we're doing each day in each league as the 2020 Tennessee State Cross Country Championship gets closer.

We'll start on the guys side, where a number of runners have eclipsed the challenging 16-minute barrier already this year. And where one of the best freshmen in 2019 returns to finish off a stellar sophomore campaign.

Signal Mountain has two girls in the top five to try to make it four-straight team titles and eight straight trips to the podium. But the defending individual champion from 2019 is back and ready to make it two years in a row to be first to the line.

Here are some names to remember as you watch and follow along with Thursday's state championship in Hendersonville.

Division One Small Schools Boys | Runners To Watch

Grayson Kennedy | Sequatchie Co.

Kennedy has had one of the best seasons of any Tennessee guy this year. The Sequatchie County junior took 37 seconds off of his 2019 5k season-best in his first race of the season in Chattanooga. His 15:37.83 career-best places him fifth in all classifications in the state of Tennessee this year, putting him at the top of the leaderboard as the favorite in D1-A at Thursday's state meet.

Will Douglas | Camden Central

As one of the top freshmen in Tennessee last season, Douglas placed sixth at the state meet with a solid 17:32.71 on the always difficult Steeplechase course. But he's had a monster sophomore season, recording five individual wins and breaking 16 minutes for the first time at Jesse Owens. Douglas was 12th in a great field at Jesse Owens, running a 15:53.27 that gives him the second-fastest time in this division heading into the state championship.

Carter Bradford | Sequatchie Co.

Like his teammate Kennedy, Carter Bradford turned in his best performance of the year at his season debut in Chattanooga. He placed second at the first Brainerd High School meet, running a new 16:05.95 career-best time in the process. Bradford has finished in the top six of each race he's competed in this season, including a runner-up region finish behind Kennedy last week. He placed 20th at last year's state meet.

Joshua Pote | Signal Mountain

Pote leads a very strong Signal Mountain team into the state meet. It's a squad who's looking to win their second-straight team title in D1-A after making the podium for the first time in school history two years ago in 2018. Pote ran his personal-best time at Jesse Owens in a first-place finish in the silver division. He was clocked in at 16:24.84, which was a 36-second improvement off of his previous best time. He turned in a 12th-place finish at last year's state championship.

Parker Breitling | Merrol Hyde Magnet

Brietling has been near the top of the class of 2024 leaderboard in Tennessee all season after a 16:31.95 run a few weeks ago down in Alabama. The freshman is looking for a big race in his first state championship run as a high schooler on Thursday afternoon in Hendersonville. He placed eighth last year as an eighth grader in 17:38.60. He's run the seventh-fastest time in the state for freshman guys this season.

Division One Small Schools Girls | Runners to Watch

Fairview sophomore (pictured) Alyssa Andrea is looking to defend her title in Division One Small Schools

Alyssa Andrea | Fairview High School

Andrea has the fastest time on the girls side of D1-A this season with a 19:19.45. She ran that back on October 3 in Alabama at Jesse Owens, giving her a new career-best. The Fairview High School sophomore is the defending state champion, winning the 2019 state championship with a 20:26.71 on Steeplechase. She'll be looking to defend her title on Thursday afternoon in Middle Tennessee.

Jaedyn Stalnecker | Forrest High School

Stalnecker will be in the mix as well at the front of the pack in Division One Small Schools after posting a 19:46.73 career-best earlier this season. That's good for second-best in D1-A heading into Thursday's state championship. The Chapel Hill, TN native has owned her area of the state, recording seven individual wins this season. She finished fourth at state last year as a freshman.

Sophia Gibby | Signal Mountain High School

Gibby leads the team favorite into this race with a 19:50.45 career-best that she ran last week at the region meet in Chattanooga. After a tenth place finish at last year's state meet, the Signal Mountain senior knocked nearly a full minute off of her personal best in her debut race of the 2020 season. She's got four top five finishes to her name so far this year. She'll be in contention for a fifth top five on Thursday at state.

Lexie LaDuc | Cannon Co. High School

LaDuc has the fourth-fastest season-best time for D1-A girls at 19:57.19. She ran that back on October 17 at the Rocket Invite. With four top-five finishes this year and a fifth-place state run in 2019, the Cannon County sophomore is another one of these talented underclassmen who will be at the front of the pack on Thursday afternoon.

Kelsey Thompson | Signal Mountain High School

Here's another Signal Mountain runner who could finish in the top five. Thompson was the second-place finisher behind Gibby at the region meet last weekend. And she ran a career-best in the process, coming in at 19:59.53. That was her first time breaking 20 minutes in her career, joining the other four members of this list as the only girls to break 20 in D1-A so far this year. Thompson came in eighth at last year's state meet.