Youth dominant theme among area harriers

Maryville sophomore Matthew Warriner finished sixth in the Class AAA boys 800-meter run.

Maryville sophomore Matthew Warriner finished sixth in the Class AAA boys 800-meter run.

They don’t have a specific night dedicated to their sport. They don’t have students decked out in body paint, cheering them across the finish line. They don’t have thousands of rowdy fans attending their events.

They’re awfully good at what they do, though.

The 2011 cross country campaign began with a bang for the Maryville Rebels, with an all-around strong display at the WNC Cross Country Carnival 5K recently. On the boy’s side, Maryville racked up an 11th overall team in the championship race and had five runners finish in the top 100.

Notable individual performances included junior Matthew Warriner, who finished in a time of 17 minutes, 02.48 seconds to place 19th out of 136 contenders. Warriner was sixth at 800 meters in last season’s Spring Fling state track and field meet.

“While Saturday wasn’t my best performance, I did set a personal record, which left me satisfied but not happy,” Warriner said. “In addition, the team as a whole pack ran well, so if we can keep our training consistent, our entire team will be improving together. Right now for me though, it’s all about the team.”

Senior Ian Murphy also looked sharp, finishing in 17:18.15 for the 28th spot.

“I am very proud of my performance this weekend, as well as the performances of the rest of the team,” Murphy said. “Everyone ran well for the first race, and I feel like the results are promising looking ahead to our upcoming meets.”

Along with the aforementioned Rebels, Maryville’s Nick Skipworth (95th), Matthew Blair (98th), Troy Galyon (99th), Landon Newman (102nd) and Alan Frisco (130th) all concluded with sub 21-minute times. Cross country rookie Maddox Southard came home in less than 26 minutes, ranking second among Rebel sophomores.

The Lady Rebels also garnered an 11th place championship race finish, a three-spot improvement from last year’s event. Sophomores Avery Franklin (20:00.89) and Courtney McKelvey (21:41.93) gained top honors for the girls in red and black, placing 12th and 59th, respectively, out of 133 participants.

Freshman Sarah Bowden had a solid debut, recording a time of 21:44.48 and a 60th place finish. Those outcomes, coupled with sub 24-minute scores from Meredith Burress, Laura Roberts, Aliya Ridgell and Caitlin Steadman left coach Landon Harris pleased with the weekend’s results from both sides.

“Both teams performed tremendously this weekend,” Harris said. “I’m really happy with how competitive our girls are, particularly our freshmen and sophomore group. Based on their times this weekend, I’m really looking for them to be a force in our region.

“As far as the boys are concerned, I’m pretty happy with their overall performance as well. Matthew Warriner and Ian Murphy ran well, and I’m hoping they will only continue to improve. Getting both of them to average in the 16s as the season goes on is my ultimate goal.”

Both Maryville teams look to continue their successes at Saturday’s Cherokee Classic in Knoxville. The girls’ race begins at 9 a.m., with the boys following. It will be the Rebels’ first look at the season’s main competition.

“We’ll get a real gauge of how we stand early in the season against our primary opponents,” Harris said.

Alcoa’s Tornadoes and Lady Tornadoes got things going at the Panther Creek Cross Country Invitational 5K recently. The Tornadoes are a mix of newcomers, with only one member having previous experience with the sport. Additionally, Alcoa graduated a significant piece to last year’s success, state championship qualifier Eric Honabach, so a positive start to the season was a top priority, Pam Haggard said.

“We started the team early in order to get some experience, and see what it was like to actually run in a cross country event,” she said. “Overall, I was pretty proud of all the runners, despite the low level of experience.”

Senior John Morgan headlined the Tornadoes with a 49th place finish out of 116 competitors, finishing in a time of 21:41.63. Right behind him were senior Arturo Perez (23:18.29) and junior Nick Moore (23:45.71), whose final positions went 82nd and 87th, respectively. Taylor Rodgers (106th), Jacob Hall (108th) and Keith Fletcher (111th) rounded out the Tornado bunch.

The Lady Tornadoes produced a single challenger in the event, but junior Morgan Scarlett-Jones was by no means intimidated by the lack of company.

“Morgan is our most experienced runner, and she sets a good example for the rest of the squad,” Haggard said. “Her strong performances and abilities often encourage teammates to work harder and strive for more challenging goals.”

A region qualifier as a sophomore, Jones followed up her postseason performance from a year ago with an encouraging season debut, putting together a time of 25:18.66, resulting in a final standing of 18th out of 82.

The Tornadoes will also travel to Knoxville for Saturday’s Cherokee Classic. Haggard believes having a meet under the belt of each of her rookie runners will prove far-reaching.

“After the first week, everybody talked to me about how they have a better understanding of what to expect and realistic goals to set,” Haggard said. “Everyone is excited for the upcoming meets now that they have a feel for how everything works during a race, and the knowledge of how much physical endurance each individual’s body can take.”

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