Cheeseman, Smith and the History of Freshmen at Eastbay

Freshmen at Eastbay

This year, only two freshmen will be running at the 2021 Eastbay Cross Country Championships and fortunately for us, they're both from Tennessee. Abby Faith Cheeseman of Webb School of Bell Buckle and Keegan Smith of Knoxville Catholic are scheduled to race on Saturday morning in San Diego.

Before the season, I wrote about their potential impact on the state and even at that time qualifying for nationals was one of the items they wanted to accomplish this season. The fact that both came through is really historic.

Keegan Smith

According to the MileSplit Database, only seven boys have qualified for the Eastbay (formerly Footlocker, Kinney) Cross Country Nationals. Keegan Smith is now the eighth. The best any freshman boy has placed at the national race is 4th and that was accomplished by Andrew Gardner in 2010 who also owns the fastest freshmen time at 15:18. The most recent freshman to qualify was Graydon Morris in 2016 of Aledo, Texas. His time of 15:51 ranks 6th of seven and he placed 34th.  While I don't think Keegan will finish better than 4th, I do think he can run with the pack behind the leaders and possibly come away with a top three time for freshmen. It would take 15:28 or better to do so.

On the state level, the best ever time he would be chasing is 15:05 run by Walter Deneen in 1982. To crack the top ten of the all-time list he would need to beat Tony Cosey, his coach's time, of 15:43 that was run in 1991. Out of pure speculation, I feel like beating his coach would be his goal outside of finishing as high as possible.

Keegan Smith (left) and his Coach Tony Cosey (right) after the race at Eastbay South. In high school, Cosey ran for Knoxville Central before attending the University of Tennessee. 

Abby Faith Cheeseman

For Cheeseman, the list of previous qualifiers is a little bit longer. In total, 74 girls have qualified for the National race as freshmen according to the MileSplit Database and one has even won it. In 2005, Jordan Hasay of Mission College in California won the race with what is also the fastest time of freshmen at the meet in 17:05. Through seven races, Abby Faith's range of times this season have been between 17:13 and 17:29. If she runs equal to her worst time this season, she will run a top five all-time make for freshman. If she runs equal to her best time of the season, she'll be second to only Hasay's winning time.

Similar to Smith, Cheeseman may have a close relation that may assist in her goal setting for the meet. Her brother, Carter Cheeseman, placed 6th and 10th at the meet as a Junior and Senior respectively. While we can't really compare their times, I don't think a single digit score for Abby Faith is out of reach. As she did at Eastbay South, she'll be the pack leader behind the leaders and if this text I got on Saturday is any indication, its sounds like she's ready to roll.

For Tennesseans, Jenna Hutchins and Kathy Kroeger have the fastest times at the meet at 17:16 and 17:28 respectively. They are also the only other runners from Tennessee to qualify as freshmen. Kroeger's time also helped her secure a runner-up finish which is the best any girl has finished at the race among Tennesseans.

Rewatch Kathy Kroeger of Independence finish National runner up in 2007.