EHS harriers nearing goals as season winds to an end

Photo by Ivan Sanders EHS Cross Country Team

By Ivan Sanders
It is a sport that requires a little insanity, a lot of hard work, and a love of running to be successful.
Yet, for the Elizabethton High School cross-country team, all the days of training and sweating are paying dividends as Coach Jim Presnell's squad is making its bid for a spot in the state championship to be held at the prestigious Percy-Warner track in Franklin.
"Our motto is 'Just give us a chance,' and that is all we want as we get ready to go into the regional and state -- a chance to prove we belong," said Presnell as he placed his team through speed drills recently. "This is the best team we've ever had at EHS. We've had better individuals, but never a better team that has such a great spirit about them."
Cross country is an event that poises a competitive environment not only on the day of a meet, but also pushes the athletes to be competitive among each other day in and day out, as EHS only has seven spots vied for by nine runners.
"I knew Matt Young could run fast, but John Ross has beat him twice," stated Presnell. "My number 3 through 6 spots have interchanged during the season, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a bunch of our guys qualify for state."
Being a sport that often draws a different breed of athlete, it is also one that challenges one's self to make the sacrifices necessary to be found at the front of the pack. Just as everyone is not cut out to be a football or baseball player, not everyone that laces up a pair of running shoes can lay claim to being a cross country runner.
"This sport takes a lot of guts, a lot of toughness, and a little bit of craziness because anyone that would come out and do this to themselves is a little crazy," said senior John Ross. "It's a great sport and I'm glad I came out and competed in it."
Ross came into the season with a goal of getting his time under the 17-minute mark. So far, Ross is only 15 seconds off the pace in achieving his goal.
Another solid runner for Coach Presnell's stellar team is senior Matt Young. Young has been steadily at the front of each meet and entered the season with some pretty lofty goals both individually and as a team.
"I would like to personally finish in the top five in the state and like to see this team finish as one of the top three teams in the entire state," stated Young. " Combined, we are not any good for anything else but running, so we are very competitive everyday as well as carriers of pretty big egos which make us work extremely hard to do our very best."
The boys' team is not the only ones that have benefited from having such a strong team, as Presnell's small girl's team is competitive to be so few.
"The girls have really gotten better by running with the boys," said Presnell. " Jessica Carpenter qualified for state last year, and her times are better now than last year and has a good opportunity to break the school record before all is said and done."
According to Carpenter, the season was a challenge before it began, but has eventually worked itself out to where she hoped it would be right now.
"I had surgery over the summer on my knee and was hoping to just break 20:00 minutes on the year," said Carpenter. "My best has been 20:53 and running with the guys has made me more competitive to try and stay with them as much as possible. It has really been fulfilling for me to participate in the cross country program."
The team will see how they stand today as they participate in one of the premier events locally in the Trailblazer Classic at Daniel Boone. Many of the top runners will be participating and the meet will be one of the biggest leading into the regional run.
Still, the main focus for this year's EHS cross-country team is on a state championship.
"If I had to trade being the state champion versus being the regional champion, I would," said Presnell. "We are focused on November 1st and I think we have a very good chance of accomplishing our goals."