Cyclones register impressive season in cross country

By Jeff Birchfield

   A seventh-place finish in the state cross country meet may be what the 2001 Elizabethton Cyclones are most remembered for, but more impressive may have been how each runner's time dropped over the course of the season.
   "All the runners improved times from the beginning of the season," said EHS head coach Lisa Watson. "They were a great group that were a pleasure to work with. I've never seen a team like them. They never complained no matter how hard you worked them."
   Juniors Andy Ross and Matt Young paced the EHS boys' team at the state meet, following on the heels of 4th and 12th place individual finishes at the conference meet. Ross ran a 17.23 at the state, exactly one minute faster than where he started the season at.
   Young was seven seconds behind at the state meet, improving from his time by one minute and 24 seconds over his first race of the year.
   Luke Carrier also ran well at the state meet, posting a time of 17:37. "Luke was our fastest runner at the beginning of the season," explained Watson. "The second half of the year, Andy was the fastest on the team."
   Other runners who helped the boys' team finish 3rd in the conference, 2nd in the region and 7th in the state were Ross Chun with a 17:43, Alex Perkins, Jared Cakebread and Jeremy Lindauer, who ran a limited number of meets due to also playing football.
   Megan Pearce from the girls' side was the star at the state meet placing 16th in the individual standings. After this year, she now holds all distance records for female runners at EHS including the 1-mile, 2-mile and 3-mile.
   For her efforts, Mars Hill College and Converse College are both recruiting Pearce to run cross country for their institutions.
   She is one of three members of the team along with Chun and Carrier to compete on the cross-country squad for all four years of high school.
   The team also excelled in the classroom combining for an average GPA of 3.62. Each member of team competed in other sports over the course of their respective Cyclone careers ranging a wide variety from football to soccer to swimming to cycling to wrestling.
   Going to the state meet wasn't only a thrill for the team, it was a highlight for the first-year head coach. "That was very exciting." said Watson, a 1985 graduate of Sullivan South. "I played in the state volleyball tournament four years in high school. As a coach, it was more exciting than as a player. It was exciting seeing the kids achieve more than they thought they could. It wasn't anything I did. It was where the team worked hard."
   Watson, after her inaugural season at the helm, was quick to hand out praise to her predecessor Ian Bradley. "Coach Bradley wrote all the workouts," Watson explained. "I didn't mess up their training programs. He did a great job. He deserves credit for a lot of this."
   The training ground included taking in some of the scenery around Elizabethton. "We took Division Street up hills," said Watson. "I rode my bike from the high school up division street with them. We went through subdivisions and through downtown. We also did some special work on the track at the school."
   One time the team even surprised Watson with a trip to a local eatery. "They told me they were going to Taco John's," recalled Watson. "That's exactly what they did. They ran all the way to Taco John's, pigged out on Super Burritos and ran back to the high school. It's funny that none of them threw up."
   Watson, a math teacher whose classes are pre-algebra and Algebra II, likely will never forget her first foray into the cross country ranks. "They were a very tight-knit team, always supporting and encouraging one another," said Watson. "There were no cocky runners. They were 'all for one and one for all', truly a team in every sense of the word."