Lady Rebels run their way to state
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — Maybe it was the desire to break through, or maybe it was the desire to make sure they got to state, or maybe it was that giant cardboard head of Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman” persona Ron Burgundy.
Whatever it was, Maryville cross country coach Landon Harris will take it after watching his Lady Rebels run to a second place finish Thursday at the Region 2-AAA Championships at Victor Ashe Park.
“I’m elated. We felt we should be going to state and we knew that all year long, but what I’m most proud of today is our push, not to settle for going to state but to be competitive in region for the top spot,” Harris said. “I think what the girls showed was that they aren’t just going to state, they’re going to race at state, be competitive.”
With Hardin Valley sweeping both the girls and boys team and individual titles, the favorites for the state meet were fairly clear, but Maryville’s girls mounted a challenge of their own. The Lady Rebels were the only team to put three runners in the top 10 Thursday after HVA took the top two spots. The point advantage that might make in a faster field next week was encouragement for Maryville.
“With 11 points separating us, when you get up there and have so many good teams together that really is a not insurmountable lead because it really spreads girls apart,” Harris told The Daily Times. “As long as the girls maintain focus and have a good week of practice and go out and do what they did today next week I think we’ll have a chance of representing very well.
“I’d like to move over the Hardin Valley hump and have the mentality we’re a state competitive team and not a regionally competitive team.”
Maryville got a lot from its girls towards that end at Victor Ashe Park as the temperatures just began to rise during the first race of the morning.
“Courtney McKelvey in sixth, I had no doubt where she was going to come in — mentally, she’s the most competitive runner on the team,” Harris said. “I’ve been really pleased with Aliya Ridgel, she really stepped it up and challenged herself for ninth. Sara Bowden came in 14th but when it came down to the last 100, 200 meters to go, she had a group on her heals and she held them off and that showed some real competitive spirit with her.”
Heritage got some strong individual efforts as Tennessee Wesleyan signee Joy Elfstron finished in 22:05 but didn’t have enough runners for a team score. William Blount finished in seventh battling the lingering affects of illness and the unpredictable nature of running.
The Lady Govs lead duo were off their normal paces after both Samatha Johns and Kelsey Marshall spent the first part of the week sick and ailing.
“Sam was fighting a fever all through the weekend and into Monday night she got two kind of light workouts this week and didn’t feel particularly good. She ran very well under those circumstances,” WB coach Cris Frary said. “Kelsey Marshall came in sick Monday and was still feeling the affects of that. Both ran well regardless of illness. Our girls overall ran pretty well and were pretty consistent overall with what we’ve been doing this year and some girls, Kaylin Bailey for one, ran a really good race.”
William Blount was also one of several teams that had an unbibbed runner finish ahead of the bibbed — and counted for scoring purposes — teammates.
“You get seven bibs to put on 10 runners for scoring,” Frary explained. “The one little freshman girl — Kate Trube — who didn’t wear a bib was our No. 5 finisher. That would have changed our team placing maybe two places up from where we finished. Maybe not exactly brilliant coaching there, but it’s one of the reasons we argued for the change that takes place for next year.
“Some of these teams, they have a No. 8 that could be the No. 5 on any given day and no coach wants to tell a kid I’m not going to count you in this race.”