1) Brock Baker, Junior, Oakland High School
This may come as a bit of a surprise since the reigning XC champion is going into his senior year but after the track season Brock had its hard to imagine him not on top of the podium in November. Expect him to push the 15 minute barrier this year too, as he looks to qualify for Footlocker.
2) Will Templeton, Senior, Harding Valley
No disrespect to Will, he is the defending cross country champion and it was pretty much a coin flip between him and Brock. My roommate did the flip. I heard that he ran a great race at state last year but his last half mile was truly special. Had a good track season but not at the same level as some of the other top guys. Cross Country is a completely different animal then track. Expect Will to have a great senior year and I look forward to watching him run this year.
3) Andrew Ogle, Senior, Powell
The legend of Andrew Ogle was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2008. His first race as a freshman was a 20:27; he would finish the year with a PR of 17:35 at Footlocker. Andrew came back a different runner from the blazing course of McAlpine. He is a big time runner who can handle both cross country courses and the track. Extremely consistent runner, who is willing to battle to the tape, demonstrated in the mile this year in track.
4) Alden Dixon, Senior, Arlington
Here is my wild card pick, if he hadn’t won the 3200 this year over Brock Baker by a nose. His times during his junior cross season were good but following a phenomenal track season, where he was probably the most improved runner which is crazy to think considering how good he already he was, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Watch out for Alden “The Hawk” Dixon to swoop in and win state but this time no one will be surprise to see him on top of the podium.
5) Aaron Templeton, Sophomore, Harding Valley
The first of three underclassmen to appear on the list, you may mistake him for a middle schooler if you meet him at a store but that’s only till he starts running where he is already performing like a seasoned veteran as he placed 3rd as a freshman in state. He has proven that he is not afraid of Steeple Chase or the competition especially after winning the freshman Footlocker race last November. Like Mark Twain said, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.” and Will is ready to fight over the entire 5 kilometers.
6) Paul Stuart, Senior, Brentwood
Its seems like Paul has been running for six years now as he has performed on such a high level since arriving at powerhouse Brentwood his freshman year. Entering his senior year Paul is looking to improve on his 5th place finish from last year. I would compare Paul to a NASCAR car, maybe not as quick as those Formulas One cars but can and will go the distance. Paul is more than ready to start his engines to begin his drive to the top of the podium.
7) Chris McElroy, Senior, Dobyns-Bennett
You know about his abilities on the track, what you may not know about him is he is a good cross country runner too. As the distance goes up some may say that he can’t hang with those thoroughbreds above him but you overlook that he has broken 16 minutes in the 5K. If you are looking for Chris at any race just go ahead and look for him in the front pack as he runs to win.
8) Nathan Thomas, Senior, Brentwood
Nathan showed this track season that he is more than just a 1600/800 runner who can also put down a decent 5K. He went up to the 3200 and medal at state. Probably should have seen this before but due to an injury was not to be at his best heading into state, costing him a chance to medal. That will only add to his fire to finish a great high school career with a medal at state this year.
9) Conner Thompsons, Junior, Oakland
This is true distance runner who has the ability to somehow shine even when his team mate may cast a pretty large shadow. He is always there, seeing Conner run a poor race is about as rare as finding a diamond walking down the street. This kid is a diamond of a runner of a runner who will be looking to push himself to the end and medal once again this year.
10) Kris Howard, Senior, Independence
The steady rise of Kris’s performance has put him in great place his senior year to have a chance to win state. Coming off of a second place finish in the junior race at Footlocker last November, Kris carried that momentum into track and doubled medaled in the 3200 and 1600. He attempts to continue picking up momentum till state, where he hopes to steamroll his way past the competition.
11) Lachlan Dickie, Sophomore, West
I was on a jog the other day and past a lone runner, who looked like he was in high school. He was going at a nice clip and looked like a pretty good runner. Only later did I discover that he was Lachlan Dickie putting in the work that usually no ones see but is what is need to become a champion. Maybe Lachlan isn’t ready to be crown a champion this year but he is already putting in the work that a champion must.
12) Van Schlenker, Senior, Oak Ridge
Unfortunately the Oak Ridge team and Van didn’t make state last year but he proved in 2009 with his 12th place finish that he not only knows how to run Steeple Chase but he belongs there in November. Another unfortunate thing is I know little about Van but I am sure that will change as the season goes on.
13) Quintin McKinnish, Sophomore, Morristown West
I had heard of this kid before his freshman year, so he had a good amount of hype going into his freshman year if news of him made it from the Knoxville area to the Nashville area. But their probably wasn’t enough buzz considering the freshman season he had. Quintin’s freshman season compares favorably to Brock’s and Conner’s so expect big things from him this year. Not only will he get better but he will mature more into a leader as he takes on the primary leadership role at Morristown West.
14) Bryan Fitzsimmons, Junior, Bearden
Hoping to emerge from a stellar finish last year at state and assert that he belongs in the top 15 is Bryan Fitzsimmons. He continued to improve all season last year and really peaked at the right time. He has a great group of guys pushing and I believe at least one of these Bearden runners will step up and be in the top 15, right now Bryan is my best bet to do so. He has the experience of running the course well before and had a good track season to carry him into this new season.
15) Conley Chitwood, Senior, Ravenwood
If you are from Middle Tennessee, you knew that someone was missing from the action. That someone would be the one and only Conley Chitwood. He falls in the power rankings because I don’t even know if he is still running. Rumor had it he was either doing karate or he decide to seat the track season out and put in more miles. If the latter is true I can’t wait to see how this different approach to training turns out, if not well I wish you the best luck in your quest to attain a black belt.
Wild Card) Quamel Prince, Senior, Antioch
Quamel was one of the most dominant force in 2009-2010, he placed 10th at state and 2nd in the 800 and 8th in the 1600. He showed he had range but an injury plagued junior season didn’t allow him toe the line at state the last year. He did come back in track to win the 800 but in the qualifier for the mile he seemed disinterested and jogged a 4:46. If you want to do win, you have to put in the work and actually want it. You just can’t show up. Quamel has all the talent in the world but does he really care about cross country enough to work at. That’s why he is my wild card; he could literally go either way because he already has.
Thank you for reading, best of luck to all the runners this year.Luke Hileman