They’re off to the races: County schools take good look at regional course during Invitational
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — Matthew Warriner wasn’t supposed to be running the race at all but Maryville’s best runner pushed his rehab a bit to end up taking the top spot Monday in the Victor Ashe Invitational Cross Country Meet Thursday.
The time of 17:31 was good enough to push the Maryville boys into eighth, just behind fifth place William Blount and ahead of Heritage in tenth in the large schools division. The Alcoa boys finished 11th among the small schools division.
“I did a workout before the race started and I felt fine. I’ve had some shin issues and decided to go ahead and go for it,” Warriner said of the moment when coach Landon Harris just happened to mention he had a bib number and was registered for the race following Maryville’s varsity workout. “My mom didn’t even know so she had a meeting set up and didn’t even know to come see me.”
Warriner had a nine second edge on second place at the line in the race he hadn’t been planning to run following a shin issue that developed the week before school started and has kept the all-state runner off the courses so far this season.
“The first mile I sat back in the middle of the pack and the second one I moved up to tempo and then the last 800 I went a little harder than tempo but I was thinking if I’m in second I might as well try to win,” Warriner said. “It’s been kind of depressing to not be able to do what I love, so this was fun.”
The Maryville girls also enjoyed the day as the junior varsity worked the course while the varsity prepared for its second major meet in successive weekends with Camella Cole cracking the top 10 at No. 8 in a time of 22:56 as the Lady Rebels finished sixth overall.
“We’re going to Alabama Friday and we jut got done at Cary N.C. last weekend which was big huge deal,” Harris said.
“This weekend was not originally on the schedule but I had Avery Franklin and most of the girls team then half the boys team literally beg me in July to go to Jesse Owens. It’s a gift for them. We haven’t been there before but all we hear about is speed, speed, speed.
“Like every runner they want a chance to go their fastest at one point so that’s what this course is supposed to be about. It’s a little speed boost before regionals. This isn’t a speed course and neither is state.”
William Blount was also using the meet as a teaching tool. Samantha Johns finished fourth (21:33) and Kelsey Marshall seventh (22:34) to lead WB to a third place finish among all schools and first among the AAA schools, but the veterans also took their younger teammates back out on the course after to talk about dos and don’ts for the regional meet that will also be held at Victor Ashe Park.
“I did OK I always think there’s room for improvement. My goal is the mid to early 20s. If I get top 10, I want to be top 3,” Johns said. “It was mainly to introduce the freshman girls to the course because they haven’t been here before, we know it pretty well.”
Govs coach Chris Frary was encouraged by his girls finish and the improvement he’s seeing from younger runners as the time for prs and peaks approaches like the changing of the leaves.
“Our girls I thought ran pretty well top to bottom, they’ve been pretty consistent in their times and had a good overall team effort with a pretty good range between our 1 and 5. A couple of our younger girls are getting better every time they step on the course,” the grizzled running guru told The Daily Times. “Boys wise, we have a long way to go. We’re still running better in practice than we are in meets. The fact of the matter is that in this region if you can’t put five guys out there that can meet time in the 17s you aren’t competitive. We don’t have one guy there with a meet time right now, but we have some time between now and then and hopefully we’ll continue to improve. I know what these kids are capable of, I just have to figure out a way to get it out of them before the end of October.”
Heritage has been in transition mode as new coach Scott Hussey takes over the program. The Lady Mountaineers are running purely for individual times at the moment with only three on the team but the small group has bonded and been pushing each other to better marks according to their new coach. Joy Elftstrom led HHS with a fifth place finish in 22:27.
“We only had two out with one injured. Everyone on the girls is making for individual slots, Joy our senior is really pushing for it,” Hussey said. “Our boys are putting forth a great effort. More than anything else its the sense of community they have and team spirit that’s really helping us push. The accolades are nice but the taking care of each other as a team is even more important than anything else.”
Robbie Chambers paced the Heritage boys at 19:07, good for 25th among the large schools.
Alcoa was getting a glance over the course during its fall break and had enough girls to place as a team despite the vacation timing while the Boys were rewriting their personal records right and left.
“I had quite few that ran their best times. Hunter Gilbert’s been our lead guy and he ran 18:32. I was very excited for him to get a chance to be on this course,” Alcoa coach Pam Haggard said. “We only ran four girls today but we got a (personal record) out of one of them as well.
“It’s always a challenge during fall break to keep everyone around and keep them running. We’ve stayed with it and we’re down to two more meets before we’re back here for regional.”