By Jeff Keeling
Led by state runner up Josh Routh, Science Hill and Daniel Boone high schools’ boys and Science Hill’s girls each produced two top 10 finishers in Saturday’s TSSAA AAA Cross Country State Championships at Nashville’s Percy Warner Steeplechase Course. The last race in a season-long rivalry saw defending state champion Boone’s boys best Science Hill in the team competition, finishing third to the Hilltoppers’ fourth. Science Hill’s girls were fifth overall in a deep field, while University High’s girls placed ninth and its boys 10th in the A-AA race.
“That was a great race for us, a great way to end the season,” Boone Coach Len Jeffers said. “Top three in the state for four years in a row, top five for five years in a row and it was the third straight year that we had three boys up on the podium that made all state.”
Overall, including individual qualifiers, Washington County/Johnson City produced eight of the 30 AAA all-state runners (top 15) Saturday. University High freshman Jeb Jones also made all-state in A-AA, placing 12th in the boys’ race in 17:13.
Boone’s Ben Varghese (4th) and Mitch Bronstetter (13th) also made boys’ all-state, as did Science Hill’s Noah Charles (5th) and Alex Crigger (7th). Science Hill’s Lydia Lee (5th) and Halle Hausman (7th) delivered all-state performances on the girls’ side. David Crockett sophomore Breanna Roy (15th) also made all-state after qualifying as an individual.
When it came to team performance, a few other teams were a bit deeper. Brentwood, who Boone had knocked from its perch last year, returned to the top on the boys’ side followed by Oak Ridge, while Germantown Houston won the girls’ title. Scoring is determined by adding the finishing places of a team’s top five runners, with low score winning. Scores on the boys’ side were Brentwood 63, Oak Ridge 87, Boone 110 and Science Hill 127. Hardin Valley Academy was a distant fifth with 227.
Science Hill Coach Jennifer Brockett said the teams were, “a little disappointed,” but all in all had great seasons.
“The guys this year ran the fastest total time of any fourth-place team since the 5K distance was started in 2006,” Brockett said. “Science Hill had the best point total for a fourth-place team. It’s still the best team Science Hill’s ever fielded, so we’re excited about that.”
After Charles and Crigger (both all-state performers last year as well), Science Hill placed Malick Gemechu (17:00) 35th and Alex Grajeda (17:03) 36th in points, with fellow senior Harrison Barrett (17:06) just behind in 38th. Science Hill freshman Thomas Seeley was 66th in 17:42 and senior Josh Simpson was 80th in 17:53.
For Boone, Routh, a senior, led after the second mile before being overtaken by last year’s runner up, Brentwood sophomore Brodey Hasty. “The kid that won it, he sat right in behind Josh, maybe two seconds,” Jeffers said of Hasty. “With just a little under a mile to go he made his move, and he’s strong.”
Routh, who was fourth at state last year, edged Brentwood’s Taylor Vroon and Varghese for second. His 15:50.58 was less than a half-second ahead of Vroon and less than a second ahead of Varghese. The trio trailed Hasty by 15 seconds.
Next came Science Hill senior Charles in 16:08, while teammate Crigger, a junior, finished in 16:13. Boone senior Bronstetter finished in 16:31.
The return of a healthy Chance Bowman helped Boone edge Science Hill for third. Bowman, a freshman who ran hurt in the conference championships and ran JV in the regional (both won by Science Hill) clocked a 17:14, while Branham finished in 17:16.
Also running for Boone were juniors Caleb Sells (17:36, 62nd) and Daniel Johnson (18:18, 109th).
On the girls’ side, in addition to Lee – who will sign today to run at UT-Martin – and Hausman, Science Hill placed sophomore Gabrielle Mardis (19:58) 26th overall, 21 in scoring. Fourth and fifth for the ‘Toppers were Julia Simpson (21:11) and Taylor Canfield (21:24) scoring at 57 and 65. Additionally for Science Hill, junior Casey Miller was 70th and senior Katie Simpson 71st, both in 21:39.
Hausman, a junior, now has two top 10 finishes after placing sixth last year, when Lee was 29th. Boone junior Makayla Shaw also qualified as an individual and finished 29th, in 20:02. Breanna Roy’s sister Taylor, a freshman, finished 79th in 21:26.
Brockett said the girls are motivated for next year after losing only Lee and Katie Simpson. “We’ve got depth and we’ve got some girls ready to move up,” Brockett said. “I feel like some of them haven’t really hit their potential yet. They gotta get that drive – they’ve got to get that fire.”
Jeffers said Shaw’s performance at state should get an all underclass Boone girls’ team motivated for next year. The team improved greatly through this season.
“If you look at results in relation to several of the other top region runners like Breanna Roy and (Morristown West’s) Makenzie Jones, she’s 25 seconds back. And you look where she normally is in relation to those two, I thought it was a great race for Makayla.”
Jeffers and Brockett said both their teams will enter some post-season meets. They’ll meet again at the Foot Locker Southeast Regional in Charlotte Nov. 28. Jeffers said 18 of his runners also will run in a two-mile time trial in Knoxville Nov. 20. Brockett said some of her runners may compete in that race as well.