CHATTANOOGA — Maryville senior Andie-Marie Jones looked down at her uniform and realized her running bib was missing, sending Maryville coach Douglas Martin sprinting across the grassy field of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga.
“That actually has never happened before,” Jones told The Daily Times. “I tried to find Coach (Martin) right before I went on my warmup because we usually put them on before we warm up so we don’t forget them like that, but I had no idea where he was so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll get it after my warmup. It’ll be fine.’
“It just didn’t register because I had so many layers on.”
It was the only stress Maryville endured during the Region 3-AAA cross country championships Tuesday.
Jones (17:48.18) bested second-place finisher and teammate Gracie Franklin (19:04.15) by a minute, 16 seconds to win the girls 5,000-meter race and set the tone for what would be a dominant showing from the Rebels.
Heather Gardner (10th, 20:41.94), Ellie Graham (12th, 21:05.63) and Amada Lashmit-Peña (15th, 21:49.91) also finished in the top-15 as the Maryville girls won the Region 3–AAA championship with a score of 40, beating second-place Walker Valley (65) and third-place Heritage (86).
Macguire Jones (second, 16:25.04), Lance Hatcher (fifth, 16:45.19), Bryce Bohanan (sixth, 17:00.56) and Brady Boone (17:03.55) each finished in the top-10 to cruise past second-place Walker Valley (92) and third-place McMinn County (95) with a score of 36.
“Some coaches are great about counting places and knowing which team is in what spot, but I’ll be honest, I’m terrible at it,” Maryville coach Douglas Martin said. “Even though you know it because they are all group up toward the front, they never settled.
“We came here seeded first, but the kids didn’t come here and take it for granted. As a coach, to know they are up there is a good feeling, but until they cross that line, you never know. It is a good feeling when you see that, though.”
It is the first time both the Maryville boys and girls will compete as a team in the Class AAA state championships since 2015.
The Heritage girls will also participate for the first time in program history after Grace Adams (sixth, 19:48.04) and Maggie Hope (ninth, 20:07.46) each posted top-10 finishes. Katie Calkins placed 17th with a time of 22:12.22 and Lillian Tice finished in 22:25.47 to take 20th. Lydia Young rounded out the Lady Mountaineers’ scoring with a 36th-place finish at 23:42.00.
“Starting out the season, I was just excited to have a full girls team because the past three years we’ve only had four to five girls on our team,” Adams said. “I don’t think we were necessarily thinking about state right away, but as we started racing and seeing what people were capable of, we were like, ‘Hey, we have a chance to make it,’ and that became the goal.
“We were seeded to place third (for most of the season), but about two weeks ago when we checked, we were seeded fourth, and that set a fire under us. I saw several girls on the team step up today, and to get to state feels really good.”
Heritage’s Noah Jinks took home the last available individual qualifying spot on the boys side after a 15th-place finish at 17:47.97.
William Blount’s Sydnee Simms (sixth, 19:38.49) and Layla Woods (14th, 21:45.90) qualified for the girls state championship as individuals as did Warren McKinley (11th, 17:18.21) for the boys.
“(Getting some state qualifiers) was one of our main goals coming into the season,” William Blount coach Jordan Conley said. “Of course, everybody wants to qualify as a team, but the best thing about this sport is that you can fight for individual time and placement.
“Those three did a really good job, and we even had one more boy that was really close. They ran exactly like I wanted them to today and they were very competitive.”
The Class AAA state championships are slated for Nov. 4 at Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville.
Andie-Marie Jones, the No. 1-ranked runner in the state, has plans to win the final 5,000-meter run of her career after missing last year’s state championship because of a COVID-19-related quarantine. The rest of the Rebels hope there is more than one trophy joining them on the trip back to Maryville.
“It’s just staying healthy for the next nine days and staying fast,” Martin said. “We taper a little bit and back off the mileage, but our workouts are still fast just to keep that speed up and keep our legs fresh.
“It’s more about mentally preparing for going into a big race and showing up and putting ourselves out there. To have both teams be able to go together is going to be really fun.”