State Cross Country Championships Meet Wrap-up
The first weekend in November and we get partly sunny skies, sixty three degrees, occasional trickle of rain, easy breeze and of course, the best Cross Country athletes that Tennessee has to offer. With eight different races held between 10am and just past 2:30pm, and over 150 schools competing, it turned out to be a pretty good day for fans and athletes of the sport. The steeplechase course is also an easy course for spectators – and coaches - to navigate and get an up close look at their favorite athletes competing.
The first race up was the AAA Girls race. The Cane Ridge junior, Bailee Dean, was considered the front runner coming into this race. You can probably say that ever since last year’s track season where she won the 3200 race with her great finishing kick, she has been considered the front runner for this race. At the start of the race and through the first mile, Bailee stayed in front but tight with the lead group. After the second mile, she gained about sixty or so meters on the rest of the girls. That lead grew a bit more and as she turned the corner past the last evergreen bush, her kick came into play again and stretched the lead as she raced towards the finish line in 18:08 and about 50 seconds faster than the 2012 championship race. With her Region 7 win and following up with this win, the start to Bailee’s junior year is looking to be a fairly exhilarating year for sure!
Matching her place she ran in the Region 7 race was Independence senior Lizzy Kroeger. Lizzy’s second place finish of 18:35.10 was about twenty five second faster than she ran in the October race and her fastest time at the state meet. Good way to finish out her high school cross country career. Nicole Gardner (Siegel, 18:40.40) placed third, Hannah Caldwell fourth (18:44.30) and Chelsea Ladd fifth (18:47.40). This was also Chelsea’s fastest time for the state meet and gives her the honor of being the fastest female from the Memphis area, across all divisions.
The AAA Girls team race wasn’t really much of a race considering Morristown-West added together a 4th, 12th, 13th, 16th and 18th place to get 63 points behind Brentwood with 116 points. Maryville was back a ways with 169 points to squeak into third place.
Having come into this race this year at the top of the stats for the 5K distance, Hardin Valley’s Aaron Templeton was also considered the front runner for this year’s championship. And with the same result as the girl’s race prior, Aaron also did not disappoint and kept his lead in the stats with a championship win while clocking 15:10.57. That time also was about 40 seconds faster than last year, when he won this state championship as a junior. Surprisingly enough, the Templeton name has been on the top of this championship since 2010.
Aaron was followed by Brentwood’s Alec Thomas 15:26.05. For a while, it looked as if Brentwood was going to have three of their runners in the top five, but some surging by Lachlan Dickie (Hardin Valley, 15:33.02) and Adam Barnard (Daniel Boone, 15:38.21) gave them second and third respectively. That put Taylor Caldwell of Brentwood to take the fifth spot in 15:40.70 and just ahead of his teammate Coleman Churitch (15:51.62). Brentwood’s top three seniors lead the way to get the team the championship with a very comfortable lead (49 points) over runner up Daniel Boone which finished with an even 100 points.
The D2-A division girls’ team race was a tight race between Webb School of Knoxville and St. Cecilia Academy. Webb found themselves getting a 1st, 3rd, 7th, 8th and 13th. That 13th place wasn’t a bad luck omen by any means, since that scored them 32 points and got them five points in front of St. Cecilia who had 37 points. St. Cecilia took 2nd, 5th, 9th, 10th, and 11th places. If you were at the finish line marking down the finishers – for one thing, you wouldn’t have waited long with both Webb and St. Cecilia getting all their top 5 finishers all in the top 13th places. That tight a team race was also a real nail biter if you were counting places as they crossed the finish line. There wasn’t a shortage of team spectators for either team, as fans of both teams ran back and forth to cheer on their favorite team throughout the whole race! And these fans will be glad to know that both these teams only have one senior in their top five, so hold on for a few more years of fun at this meet!
Two Webb girls placed in the top 5 with Peighton Meske defending her overall Championship title (19.11.90) and in 4th place was her teammate Madeline Christian (20:54.68). Second overall was Emily Peters of St. Cecilia (19:37.99), third was Cimone Bridgewater (Lausanne, 20:29.60) and closing out the top five was University School of Jackson’s Samantha Sullivan.
For the boy’s side of D2A, Sam Darnall of University School of Jackson and Reece Rose of Webb School of Knoxville both went neck and neck for most of the race. It wasn’t until the late stages of the race did Sam pull ahead to win with a 16:47.87 just ahead of Reece’s 17:08.35. Coming in at third was Frankly Road’s Blake Rhoden (17:19.77). Then in the 4th, 5th and 6th places, coming from a little ways back and with extremely close times at the finish, were University School of Nashville’s Kellon Patey (17:25.25), Wolf Robinson (17:26.71) and Dylan Groos (17:27.09). That surge by the USN boys was good but just short of getting ahead of Webb’s team title. Webb scored 37 points and USN came in second with 46, while USJ got third with 77 points. All in all, a tight top 3 team race for these D2A athletes.
There seemed to be a nice feeling in the air for those athletes with the defending champion saddle on their back this year (yes, I know that was a steeplechase pun!). Allison Cheeseman of Brentwood Academy certainly wanted to retain that title. From the very start of the race, Allison was very determined to take the lead and not give it up at all. That’s exactly what she did as she won the title in her senior year, and on a cool day that did produce a lot of fast times, she ran her fastest time at this meet with an 18:28.28. On paper, it looked to be a bit of an uncomfortable lead but Allison finished smooth and fast and well ahead of Ensworth junior Emma Sloan (18:51.97). In third, was Allison’s sister and teammate, Claire Cheeseman (19:15.32). The Cheeseman name is going to be at the top of the leaderboard for a long long time to come – Claire is only a freshman, so some advice to the competition – don’t rest!
And to round out the last two top 5 finisher, we had Lauralys Shallow (19:35.63) and Caroline Cook (19:37.27) both of St. Agnes. It’s almost impossible to look at a top ten in any cross country meet and not see the St. Agnes name in there – and near the top - somewhere. And after watching Caroline Cook run cross country and track – and be so successful – kind of sad to see that this is her last cross country state championship. Top five finisher is always a nice way to finish out that career.
The D2AA Girls team was plainly taken by Brentwood Academy with their 57 points. Having three of their top 5 finishers secure top 10 finishes pretty much put away every else’s chances at getting the team title. The tight race however, was for second between St. Agnes and Harpeth Hall – with Harpeth Hall winning by a narrow margin of 4 points. 70 to 74 points.
On the boy’s side, Eric Anderson of Montgomery Bell Academy indisputably improved from his performance last year at this state championship. Ok, that was an understatement – almost a minute better and from 7th place to the 1st place title is definitely an improvement to be noted for sure! Derek Barnes (McCallie) came in second with a 15:56.90 and rounded out the top two with under 16 minute times. Brentwood Academy, not quite as impressive as the girls, also had two in the top 5 overall with 3rd and 4th place finishes by Andrew Bull (16:10.00) and Garrett Bull (16:12.50). Rounding out the top five was Memphis University School’s 800M specialist, Rashad Orange with a time of 16:20.90.
The boys’ team side was fairly close and if you were counting at the finish line, you probably would have needed a good pen and paper to write down everyone’s place. The top 3 teams all had their top 5 finisher inside the top 23 spots. McCallie sneaked out the win with 47 points, Brentwood Academy second overall team with 58 points and MUS bronze with 72 points. That was really a fun race to watch and try to score by yourself!
The last two races of the day were the D1 A-AA girls and boys. Last year, the girls D1A-AA race was a real runaway with Barbara Bell winning by over a minute. This year however, the race was much closer with Claudia Smith, Central Magnet junior, took the lead by a narrow margin of just over 7 seconds. CPA senior Jessica Clarke took second with a 19:08.63. These two girls kept a close race for nearly all of the 5000 meters and Claudia was able to surge near the end to finish strong and get the Championship title with an 18:57.31. Signal Mountain had two girls in the top 5, Mallory Young (19:45.73) and Madison Drennan (19:48.76) and with their leadership also took the top team finish. In fifth place overall was CAK’s senior Sarah Zimmer with a 19:52.48.
Again, Signal Mountains two top five finishes certainly helped their team pull out a strong win with a 42 point total. Christian Academy of Knoxville came in second with 80 points and Knoxville Catholic third with 93. Signal Mountain team’s had a 3rd, 4th, 9th, 10th, and 16th place finishers and anytime a group can run that close to the top, well, a win is usually the result!
The D1A-AA boys were the last race to compete. By the 2:20 starting time came around, we saw a lot of sun, then a lot of clouds, then some sprinkling of rain, and a yoyo of temperatures from cool to cold and back again – several times! These boys however, were able to hang in their strong. Wesley Pectol was the athlete that weathered the weather (is that right?) the best and took the very last title of a very highly competitive day of racing. Greenville’s senior ran a 15:36.79 and won ahead of Grainger’s junior Zach Long (15:54.14). Zach Weaver, Wesley’s teammate, ran a long part of the race with his senior, and lost a little time late in the race, however, a strong finish brought him back into the top 5 with a 16:36.78. In third was Central Magnet’s Andrew Hillsman, who ran a 16:07.63 and was able to lead his team to the championship title. Following Adrew was Luke Meade of Sullivan East with a 16:13.86 to finish out the top five spots in this championship meet on a day that was cool, but great for cross country!
Central Magnet had athlete finish in 2nd, 5h, 6th, 20th and 39th place and that took their team to the title with 72 points and in a comfortable lead ahead of Hume-Fogg that came in second with 117 points.
The State championship for any sport is one that should have the best of the best for the state and should compete with no holding back. If you’re wondering if this actually happened at this meet, well, look at the times, both for the teams and individuals and you won’t have to wonder too long. This was a good year for a lot of teams and individuals. For some, this was the last cross country meet they will run with their teammates. With pre-season camps, the top five spots count for points, cross country always has had a real team feel to it. Now with the seniors graduating, new freshman coming into the mix, looks like we get to see another team next year… it’s what makes cross country the sport it is…
See you next year!