By Jeff Keeling
Science Hill swept the Region 1 AAA Cross Country meet at Daniel Boone High Thursday, as a late surge by Harrison Barrett helped the boys squeak by defending state champion Boone by one point, 30-31, and the girls bested defending state champion Morristown West 36-48.
“We’ve been working for this,” elated Science Hill senior Noah Charles, who finished fourth overall in 16:38, said after the boys’ race. “This is what we wanted, so I’m excited.”
The triumphs came on a day that saw local schools show that Washington County has some of the state’s best running talent, as Boone’s boys and University High’s boys and girls also punched their tickets to Saturday’s TSSAA state championships in Nashville. David Crockett’s Breanna Roy and Taylor Roy, and Boone’s Makayla Shaw, also all qualified individually by finishing in the top 10 of the regional field.
On the girls’ side, the rest of that top 10 was heavily weighted at the top with Science Hill runners. The senior-junior-sophomore trio of Lydia Lee (19:13), Halle Hausman (19:28) and Gabrielle Mardis (20:06) stayed packed together until late in the race behind eventual winner Makenzie Jones of Morristown West, and the Topper girls came across second, third and fourth. Casey Miller (21:12) and Taylor Canfield (21:19) were 13th and 14th to round out the Science Hill scoring.
Breanna Roy, coming off an injury that had kept her out of several meets, was fifth in 20:13. As a freshman last year, a healthy Roy placed 14th at the state meet in 19:20. Boone’s Shaw was seventh in 20:34, and Taylor Roy, a freshman, was 10th in 20:53.
While Science Hill’s girls avenged a loss to Morristown West at Boone’s Oct. 10 Trailblazer Invitational, the boys – who also lost to Boone at that meet – had bested the Trailblazers at the Oct. 23 Big Seven Conference championship at Bristol’s Steele Creek Park. A slight injury slowed Boone freshman Chance Bowman in the conference meet, and he ran on the junior varsity squad Thursday.
Still, with several hundred meters to go and Boone leading, having placed Josh Routh (16:01), Ben Varghese (16:05) and Mitch Bronstetter (16:53) first, second and fifth, Science Hill’s number five runner on the day, Barrett, moved past Boone’s four and five, Daniel Johnson and Zac Branham, and held them off to finish 10th in 17:28. With the other four Toppers having sandwiched Bronstetter in third (Alex Crigger, 16:24), fourth (Charles), sixth (Alex Grajeda, 17:11) and seventh (Malick Gemechu, 17:12), Barrett’s surge was enough for the one-point win, with Johnson just 1.3 seconds behind.
“I feel they’re right where they need to be,” Science Hill Coach Jennifer Brockett said Monday of both the boys and girls squads. Science Hill’s boys last won the region in 2006, the girls in 2012.
“They’ve done real well with packing and closing the gap (between teammates). That’s huge, and part of why you run competitive meets early in the year. I think that’s all coming together.”
Boone coach Len Jeffers said Chance Bowman’s winning time in the JV race was enough to get him back onto the varsity – where he’s generally been running fourth – for the state meet.
“I like how the team is looking right now,” Jeffers said, adding that he expects the state championship to come down to last year’s runner-up and perennial contender Brentwood, along with Oak Ridge, Boone and Science Hill, an assessment with which Brockett agreed.
Jeffers was also high on the young Boone girls team, which finished fourth and just missed a state berth. “They improved tremendously this season, and with Makayla going to state, I think they’ll be primed to work hard and try to make state as a team next year,” he said.
Jeffers and Brockett said in addition to Science Hill and Morristown West, girls teams to watch at state include Germantown Houston, Ravenwood and Brentwood.
In AA, very young University School squads packed their runners together well. The boys, who finished third, had freshmen Jeb Jones, Porter Bradley, Colin Daniel and Caleb Strickler finish 4th, 7th, 22nd and 26th. Sophomore Pablo Rivas was 11th. The second-place girls had freshman Ali Burns 8th, sophomores Cora Alison and Rebekah Owen 11th and 15th, freshman Grace McHean 17th, and sophomore Christina Fulcher 22nd.