Hughes controls conference meet

By Matt Hill

   KINGSPORT -- Happy Valley cross country runner David Hughes felt relieved to get back into the win column on Thursday.
   Hughes ran a 15:39 to easily win the Watauga Conference boys cross-country meet at Sullivan North High School.
   Elizabethton had some nice showings in the boys competition, as Cyclone runners Andy Ross and Matt Young finished third and ninth, respectively.
   Elizabethton also finished second in the boys' team results and Happy Valley came in third.
   On the girls side, Sullivan Central's Anna Ringley finished first at a 19:24 clip, Happy Valley's Katie Williams came in second with a time of 19:38 and Kortney Goulds tallied a third place finish by running at a 19:50 pace.
   Also on the girls side, Elizabethton's Jessica Carpenter came in sixth and Happy Valley's Shanna Rains came in eighth.
   Happy Valley was second in the girls team results.
   Hughes avenged a loss last Thursday at the Trailblazer Invitational, and he couldn't have been happier.
   "You don't know how nice it feels," Hughes said. "I had a horrible loss at Trailblazer, and it's good to get on the winning track again."
   Hughes was definitely the class of the field on Thursday, as he won by 30 seconds. But Hughes knows he will have to step it up as crunch time approaches.
   "I think when I get to state I'll run faster, because today I was just jogging," Hughes said. "I took off a little too slow. I feel like I can go 15:15, 15 flat at state. I always improve from conference to state around 20 to 25 seconds."
   Hughes says he couldn't do what he has accomplished without a great support system.
   "I would like to thank my mom, dad and Coach (Don) Verran," Hughes said. "I give all my thanks to them."
   Ross came in about a minute behind Hughes at 16:37. Ross felt like he had some confidence going in after a strong run at the Trailblazer last week.
   "I just felt like I could run a really fast race," Ross said. "I was looking for my (personal record) this year, but I don't believe I did as good as I possibly can."
   Ross looks like a strong contender to go to the state, and that is definitely his goal.
   "I'm hoping to go," Ross said. "I would really like it if the whole team went. I believe that we are capable of it. We've just got to push ourselves, and I believe we've been giving it 100 percent the whole season. I'm not too worried."
   Young was pleased with his performance, and also gave credit to his competition.
   "My time was good, I just got beat by a lot of really good people," said Young, who came in with a time of 17:19.
   Young was very pleased with the second place finish of the Cyclone team.
   "I thought the team did very well," Young said. "We should be able to make it to the state as a team. I'm hoping."
   As for the girls, Williams is still hoping to pass by Ringley before the year is out.
   That's been the goal for Williams all year, who won the Buccaneer 5K road race last weekend in Johnson City.
   "I'm working on it," Williams said. "I'll get there eventually."
   Williams thinks if she continues to work hard, she can achieve her goal.
   "I've been training hard this week," Williams said. "I'm running on weak legs from doing my hard workouts. But I'll be ready for her, again."
   Goulds is also trying to catch Ringley, and she sees it as a mental problem right now.
   "Right now I think it's a mental game more than it is physical," Goulds said. "She's worked for where she is, but we're trying to work harder out there. But I think right now she's got us in a mind game."
   Goulds didn't finish in the top two, but that didn't stop her from enjoying the race.
   Goulds ran a personal best, so she was very happy about that.
   "I broke my personal best today," Goulds said. "And I think Katie was a couple of seconds off hers, so we ran hard today."
   Rains also broke a personal best en route to her top-10 finish.
   This is Rains' first year in cross-country, so it's obvious she has come a long way already.
   "I'm very happy with myself," Rains said. "Even though the conditions were pretty cold, I was pleased with how I did."
   Carpenter is also in her first year in cross country, but has already emerged as one of the top runners in the Watauga Conference.
   Carpenter came in with a 20:35, a mark that is almost four minutes better from when she started the season.
   "My first time I believe was 24 something, so I've improved a lot," Carpenter said.
   With this year almost behind Carpenter, she is expecting only bigger things in the future.
   "I think next year will be better," Carpenter said. "I'm going to try and beat Megan Pearce's record."
   The Region I meet will be next Thursday at Daniel Boone High School.