Memphis area top CC Boys
There's always been talk about who has the best cross-country runners across the State. Sometimes the discussion concentrates around the courses in each part of the state. Sometimes the talk is on the number of available athletes in the area. And then the terrain sneaks its way into the conversation - hills, flat... then there's talk of the temperatures and humidity. I try to stay out of that conversation.
D1 AA Boys
The last several years, we've seen some very talented athletes emerging out of the Memphis area. The D1 schools seemed have hovered around both Bartlett and Houston for a few years now. With Arlington and Collierville stepping in on occasion. Even Whitehaven shows some enthusiasm for cross country. This season is no exception. The Region 8 meet the other day was a 1-point difference showdown between Houston and Bartlett. Bartlett coming out on top. This proved to be an even closer match than earlier in the season when Bartlett won by 4 points over Houston at the Frank Horton. So, what's that say? Is Houston closing the gap with the idea of bettering Bartlett at State. Or was the Region meet more tactical knowing both teams were likely to make the State meet if they ran halfway decent?
I'm probably not going to speculate or try to answer those questions. I've been the recipient of many sweet little notes from the huge contingent of super fans of both teams! But I've seen each of these teams make surges at the end of the season. So maybe Houston will come out on top at the State meet. Or maybe Bartlett.
I've quoted the great Steve Prefontaine in the girls' write-up, so I'll add another here. "A lot of people run a race to see who is the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can push himself into exhausting pace, then at the end, punish himself even more." That's cross country. That too is what is needed to come out on top at the State meet. We'll see next Thursday who the best is coming out of the Memphis area this season.
I'm also not going to analyze these two teams here, instead I'm just going to celebrate the fact that these two teams likely bring out the best in themselves - and each other - every time they compete. They also set a high standard for cross country in the area and this helps all the other schools push themselves to keep up.
So - Here's the top 5 from Houston and Bartlett based on the Region 8 AAA meet, the State qualifier - the first meet of the season that really counts!
Bartlett leads the way with Landen McNair being the cream of the crop in the Memphis area. Landen set his fastest time of 14:59.90 in the Huntsville Alabama 2021 Southern Showcase meet. On the local championship course, his fastest is 15:14. That was set the other day at the Region meet. The others and their best times include Chance Kirby (15:59), Christian Patterson (16:02), Elliottt Garst (16:16), Dante Torres (16:32), and Ethan Wright (16:44).
The Region 8 meet was something to watch with the way the athletes came in across the finish line. Bartlett first, then Houston, Bartlett, Collierville, Bartlett, Houston, Houston, Houston, Arlington... that was like riding a seesaw the way these guys were coming in one after another.
Hays Adams was the first Houston athlete crossing the line at the Region 8 meet in a time of 15:28 (that's just over a second away from his PR of the season). He and Bartlett's McNair basically ran the Region 8 race by themselves. About 14 seconds between each other and a little over 30 seconds ahead of the rest of the pack. The State meet is a lot bigger and has a lot more talent in the mix. But we could see a similar finish and I'm sure that would make the Bartlett fans pretty happy!
At the Region meet, Houston's 2nd thru 5th runners were only about 30 seconds apart. That's a very tightly matched team! And their sixth runner at the meet was just another 24 seconds back. That could be the making of an advantage in the crowded field at the State meet. Samuel Tankersley (16:03), Luke Carpenter (16:08), Robert Randall (16:15) and Thomas Dickinson (16:32) made up the rest of the top 5 at the Region meet. Among those results, most were PR's for the group. Robert has a better PR having run a 15:55 in September.
Taking everything into consideration, just maybe a Memphis Team can make a stand near - or at - the top of the podium at State this season.