Lady Warriors snare district championship

Photo by Dave Boyd
Happy ValleyÕs Jennifer Neagle catches her breath after the girlsÕ event.

By Marvin Birchfield
There's nothing more tiresome than chasing down a running brave, especially when trying to catch a pack of them.
The Happy Valley girls cross-country team set a blazing trail during the District 1-A/AA meet on Thursday, as five of the Lady Warrior runners placed in the top ten spots to secure a convincing win over the rest of the competition.
"From all the way from the first to the seventh, all the runners ran super times," said Happy Valley coach Don Verran. "You try to push and shove all the time and we're not stopped at that, but we're running great so far.
"We just hope we have a little bit more left."
It was no surprise who crossed the finish line first as Katie Williams matched her school record with a time of 18:34 to lead the Warrior pace.
Volunteer's Jacklyn Talbert was second with the time 19:08, helping the Falcons score an overall third place finish.
The Warriors other stronghorse, Kortney Goulds, followed close in third with the time of 19:18, as she has continually been able to cut down her time this season.
"We came out and showed what we were made of today. We've been doing morning runs and after practice," said Goulds. "As the coach says, we've really cranked it up a notch and we've been working hard which has cut down our times."
Anna Ringley came in fourth to assist Sullivan Central in a team's second place finish, while Jessica Carpenter was the top Cyclone in fifth with the time of 19:32.
The overall spots of seventh through ninth were hosted by a tribe of Warriors, as Shanna Raines and Samantha Carter followed behind teammate Ashley Flynn.
"I was real happy with our team," Williams said. "Kortney ran a 19:18, and we had two girls who were five or ten seconds off of breaking 20 minutes. We need this effort in the state."
In fact, all of the Lady Warriors were in the top half of the field, with no runner finishing outside the top 15, which featured every athlete turning in a time of under 22 minutes.
"I ran my personal best today which was 19:18 and I'm really pleased with that," said Goulds. "All of us ran under 22 minutes and were able to make all-conference."
By the end of the day, Happy Valley had a low score of 28, while the Cougars total was more than double at 62.
"Katie and Kortney have been around all four years, so they realize, 'hey, we have to do it this year,'" said Verran. "They're bringing the other girls along with them, and our freshman Samantha Canter really ran well today."
The battle in the boys' competition came down to the number two and six teams in the state.
A showdown between Elizabethton and Sullivan Central came down to the wire, with the Cougars edging the Cyclones by a total of five points.
"We ran very well the best I can tell -- we had five guys under 17:00 -- but we've been chasing Central all year long," said Elizabethton coach Jim Presnell. "We still think we're capable of catching them, and we're looking forward to running against them in the state."
Todd Skelton of Volunteer posted the fastest time of the day at 16:05, with Chris Blackburn of Sullivan Central barely being handed the runner-up position at 16:07.
"Our guys haven't been on this course before, so they really weren't sure where they were going, and I knew it was going to be a tight race between us and Elizabethton," said Sullivan Central coach Mark Dingus. "As the race developed it was a tight race among everybody, and I knew someone needed to take the lead."
Luke Avery placed an overall third for the Cougars, while the next three times were turned in by Cyclones.
"Elizabethton is a good team, and they've got a lot of heart like we do and it's very competitive," said Dingus. "It's fun to watch that kind of action occur, but it's not to the point where we hate them or they hate us."
John Ross led the 'Betsy pack with the time of 16:29, as Adam Green finished just four seconds behind to come in an overall fifth.
"I was very pleased with my time," Ross said. "It's the best time I've ran yet. I ran a 16:29 to precede my older brother as the fast Ross boy in the house.
"All you can worry about is how good you run and we did all right, and I'm sure we'll do better next week."
David McDaniel posted a time of 16:40 for Elizabethton, while Matt Young and Josh Jaynes placed seventh and ninth, respectively.
"We were pretty stout today, but we wished we could of had some more of our top runners up there," said McDaniel. "We think Central might of had their best race so far, and we're still looking for ours to come.
"This was the best time for me and hopefully I can keep getting better. We owe everything to coach Presnell."
Elizabethton's Jared Cakebread came in 15th overall, but it was not quite high enough in the finishing order as Sullivan Central had five guys in the top ten.
"They beat us by five points today, and we had four in before their top four, but our fifth runner lagged back a little bit," said Presnell. "If we can get our top five in a bit closer, then maybe we can come away with it next time."