Led by Crigger, Hausman, ‘Topper runners hope to return to state
They have a new coach and a lot of holes to fill on the boys’ side, but Science Hill’s cross country program looks to be set for another strong year after fourth (boys) and fifth-place team finishes at the state tournament last fall.
The girls return an extremely strong nucleus from a team that finished fifth at state last year with just one senior among the five scoring runners. That was Lydia Lee, who was fifth in 19:13 and is running for UT-Martin this fall. Two seconds behind her in seventh place was Halle Hausman, who is expecting good things this season.
“I can tell a couple people have been training harder this year, and I know it’ll pay off for the season,” Hausman said. If nothing changes – and Hausman said a couple of freshman girls have looked strong through the summer – the top five is likely to include her, fellow seniors Casey Miller and Taylor Canfield, and juniors Gabrielle Mardis and Julia Simpson.
Among runners whose teams competed at state, Mardis was 21st last fall in 19:58, with Simpson 57th in 21:11. Canfield and Miller were 65th and 70th in 21:24 and 21:39.
When asked about her personal goals for the season, Hausman, who placed sixth in state as a sophomore, turned the conversation back to the team. “I just want to go out at state and do better than we did last year,” Hausman said, adding that she does plan to run in college. She’s spoken with representatives from a couple of colleges.
Outgoing coach Jennifer Brockett, who has taken a teaching job in Chattanooga, said Simpson was injured some last season. “I think this will be kind of her comeback,” Brockett said. “She’s really been putting in the miles this summer. She’s been working hard and running up with Halle some.”
Graduation depleted the boys team, which finished fourth at state last fall in one of its best performances. “We had five of our core seven leave, so everyone’s like, ‘it’s a rebuilding year,’” Brockett said before adding, essentially – not so fast. “Our juniors last year who barely missed varsity have stepped it up, along with some other kids who have decided this is their chance,” she said. Those runners include now-seniors Jared Hamby and Cole Benedict, along with juniors Nick Farrell, Ben Fairchild and Justin Canfield.
Senior Alex Crigger is far and away the top returning runner. He finished seventh at state (16:13), two spots behind teammate Noah Charles, who is running for East Tennessee State University this fall. Rounding out the scoring in that meet were seniors Malick Gemechu (35th, 17:00), Alex Grajeda (36th, 17:03) and Harrison Barrett, who was 38th in 17:06.
Rising sophomore Thomas Seeley finished 66th in that race in 17:42 and is the only returner who ran varsity. In addition to the runners Brockett said will be jockeying for varsity slots, though, the Toppers will benefit from a transfer from University High, sophomore Jeb Jones.
Jones finished ninth among scoring runners in last year’s A-AA state meet in a time of 17:13. “That could be a good little addition,” Brockett said.
For his part, Crigger said he believes some of the returners Brockett mentioned will step up. Of Seeley, who had a serious injury during the spring track season, Crigger said, “I think he’s matured a little bit, and he’s looking healthy right now.”
Individually, Crigger said he’s tried to step up in a leadership role, and is hoping for a top three finish at state and Top 10 at Foot Locker South, which would qualify him for a national meet after the fall season.
Last week, Science Hill named Evan Adams as its new girls coach and distance coach for track and field. Ryan Edwards will coach the boys team.
“I absolutely love coaching,” said Brockett, who will teach art at Dalewood Middle School. “I loved coaching Science Hill, and in this decision that I made to move, leaving this team was the hardest decision that I had to make.”
Brockett led Topper squads to state a number of times and said she hopes she’s set her successors up well. “It’s like they say when you go camping, ‘leave the place better than you found it.’ I’ve tried to build the program up, so now it’s up to these kids to continue the tradition and instill what we do into the new coach and help the new coach grow and develop and make it their own team.”