RECAP: City Auto Memphis Twilight XC Classic 2021

The Memphis Twilight is always one of the best races in the area for local teams to gain bragging rights. After a year off, the Twilight was back and as strong as ever.  Bill Hoffman and the Buccaneer volunteers have always made this race one of the best organized and run events of the season. This year was no exception.  I'm wondering too if CBU had some pull somewhere and gave us this unusually low humidity and mild temps! When you see that kind of combination at this event, it usually indicates the we were going to see some fast times. That came true. No records came down Saturday, but a lot of athletes saw better times on this fast course.

Girls Recap

Ciara O'Shea of Madison Central won the girls varsity race. Ciara improved her time from the last Twilight by almost 20 seconds to run a swift 17:47.99. That time was almost a minute ahead of the runner up athlete, and this was done with a pretty strong field behind her. The real news though was she came out as the defending champion in the event and next year she'll have that same title with yet another win at this event. But you'd expect that from the Kentucky State champion. And if this race is any indication, that list of titles is going to keep on growing. Being a junior, we certainly hope to see Ciara next year at this race as well.

Behind Ciara was Arlington senior Ann-Marie Braese. Ann-Marie was 6th at this race in 2019 and so clearly improved in that spot. She also bettered her time on the course which should raise eyebrows since it's also a good improvement on how she started out last season. Coming into the season as the defending Region champion, she for sure is on track to make even more progress heading into that race in early November! I'm curious if we could see more improvements - in time and place - at the Frank Horton this season.

The bronze place finisher came from an athlete that I'd almost consider a local to the Memphis area.... Ok, Paris TN isn't next to Memphis.  But Henry County's Dinah Winders has run this race along with her brothers so many times, it's almost impossible like they live here! Dinah came into this race after winning the Dresden HS Invitational on August 17th. That course is a stark contrast to the Twilight course. You'd expect to get a better time on the Twilight and Dinah sure did. Her 18:49.74 was almost a minute faster than the time she needed to win at the Dresden meet. She needed about six or seven seconds to pass Ann-Marie and I'm willing to guess that gap will be much smaller come State in November.

I looked back at previous Twilights, and I mean way back, and couldn't find a family that has dominated this evening races as much as the Winders family. The youngest of the Brothers, Silas, holds the middle school record. Javan and Titus both have champion status at the Twilight. Dinah has a title at this event, along with a couple of bronze finishes during her career here. I have to say, a few competitors are giving out a sigh of relief for next year. And then there's some that will miss seeing this talented group of runners competing at the Twilight.

West Plains High took the top team title with 107 points. They came into the meet with a fairly top-heavy group taking the 3 - 4 - 5 team scoring spots. Brayden Kantola (19:25.93), Jordan Kantola (19:27.61) and Jayna Gunter (19:32.86) came in the 5th, 6th and 7th spots overall (3,4,5 scoring spots). Those top three were tightly packed with only a few seconds apart. The next two scoring spots were a bit further back, but enough to keep the team ahead of Houston High in second place.


The Houston team 2-9-31-38-44. The Houston runner up spot overall gave them the clear favorite for claiming bragging rights in the Memphis area. Lead by Zoe Marsh (19:05.64) with her 4th place overall spot. The last time Zoe ran the Twilight (2019), she was a middle school athlete and pulled off an exciting win that year. And by the way, the 19:05 Zoe ran Saturday was her new PR for the distance and that is a pretty good way to start the season off!

This Houston team is a young team, having Anissa Pokorny-Yadav (20:46.16, 3rd overall on the team) as the only senior on the squad. The rest of the team is made up by Gracey Owens (20:03.94, 11th grade), Emma Thweatt (20:59.65, 10th grade) and freshman Ava Stockdale (21:11.17).  Their sixth spot is also a freshman, Lindsey Barnes (21:40.52).  Houston normally gets better as the season progresses, so this looks like another strong season for these girls!