By Jeff Keeling
Last year, Daniel Boone High School’s boys cross country team finished a distant second to Brentwood Academy, and Adam Barnard, James Garst and Josh Routh placed fourth, ninth and 14th, respectively. Saturday, Boone’s power trio were first, third and fourth and the Trailblazers nipped Brentwood, 47 to 50, to bring the class AAA championship hardware home to Gray for the first time since 1998, third time in school history and first under coach Len Jeffers.
Sophomore Ben Varghese and junior Mitch Bronstetter rounded out Boone’s scoring, finishing 19th and 25th, respectively. Because individually qualifying runners did not have teams to score for, Varghese tallied 17 points and Bronstetter 22. Boone’s other varsity runners, juniors Nick Roth and Jacob Garst, finished 72nd and 125th.
Jeffers said the win was sweet after two consecutive runner-up finishes to Brentwood. And it was oh so close. Had Bronstetter been just four seconds slower than his 16:48.82 over Nashville’s 5,000 meter Percy Warner Park Steeplechase Course, Brentwood would have three-peated.
“We felt like if each one of them just did what they were supposed to do, the team itself would perform well,” Jeffers said in a phone interview Saturday night during the team’s drive home. “I thought earlier that (the scoring margin) would be less than 10. After it was all over, standing there watching them come in, I thought it could be less than five.”
It certainly was. Brentwood runners scored two, five, 11, 14 and 18 points, with brothers Brodey and Gavin Hasty placing second and fifth. But Jeffers’ runners did what he said they have done all season, on a windy day with near-perfect temperatures.
“Just as they’ve done in all the other meets, they rose to the occasion. Regardless of the rankings of the teams we’ve faced, they’ve not backed down from anybody.”
Barnard, a senior who is narrowing his list of potential top NCAA Division 1 schools for which he’ll run, finished in 15:43, seven seconds ahead of Brodey Hasty. Fellow senior Garst was less than a second from making it a one-two, finishing third in 15:51, while Routh, a junior, was next in 16:05. Varghese ran 16:39.
Jeffers said the team entered Saturday’s meet with a different approach than the last two teams had.
“It’s just such a big weight off their shoulders,” he said. “It was a different atmosphere than the past couple years when we’d come down as underdogs with nothing to lose. They’re pretty excited, pretty pumped.”
The team arrived in Nashville Friday and jogged the course in the afternoon. They had a 1.5-mile “shakeout run” Saturday morning after breakfast and then a light lunch. Then they went out to the course and helped Jeffers, only the third coach in Boone cross country history, add his name to those of Karl Winkle and George Moody, his predecessors whose squads brought home championships in 1981 and 1998.
Science Hill’s top duo, sophomore Alex Crigger and junior Noah Charles, finished 14th and 15th in leading the Hilltoppers to fifth overall. Also scoring for Science Hill were senior Bradley Tongco (48th overall, 40 points) and juniors Harrison Barrett (68th, 55 points) and Malik Gemechu (74th, 60 points). The Topper girls finished sixth overall, with sophomore Halle Hausman placing sixth individually.
David Crockett freshman Breanna Roy and sophomore Dakoatah Lyons qualified as individuals. Roy was 14th in the girls’ race in 19:20, while Lyons was 60th in the boys’ race in 17:32. University School’s Cora Alison qualified as an individual for the A-AA meet and was 43rd in 22:11. UH’s Pablo Rivas was 103rd in 19:05.