Eckerman sets all-time state meet record

By Steve Williams

Webb School’s Colin Eckerman didn’t just win the Division II-AA title at the recent TSSAA Cross Country State Championships; he set a new all-time state meet record of 14:51.54 over the 5,000-meter course at Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville.

Jack Bowen of McCallie came in as “the favorite to win,” said Webb Coach Bobby Holcombe, but finished a close second and Knoxville Catholic junior standout Keegan Smith placed third.

“We knew for Colin to win, he would have to do some aggressive stuff towards the end and he did,” said Holcombe.

“With about 600 meters to go, Colin was about three meters down and decided to go ahead and start his kick. He took off and regained contact with Jack with about 250 to go. Another surge was to go ahead and take the lead and then beat them at the end.”

It was definitely a breakout win for Eckerman, who has come a long way in his high school cross country career.

“He got cut from the basketball team in his freshman year and decided to come out for cross country,” Holcombe recalled. “In his very first race he was timed in 23 minutes, so we never knew in a million years this guy was going to go on and win state.

“His work ethic has been remarkable throughout the years.”

Colin has become a late-bloomer.

Coach Holcombe said just six months ago, Eckerman went to a state 3200 championship meet and didn’t even qualify.

“It was a major chip on his shoulder that he wants to show that he belongs there (with the best),” said Holcombe. “He was determined this year and the goal was to win the race.

“When we set team goals back in August at team camp, and he said it all season, ‘I belong here. I can beat these guys.’”

He has signed with Furman, a Top 10 team in the nation.

Coach Holcombe also was pleased with his girls team’s state championship, the first since 2018 and after four consecutive runner-up showings.

“The goal this year was to get our Top 5 runners in the Top 15 at the state and also win the race,” he said. “That was accomplished too.”

The Lady Spartans were without their No. 2 runner as senior Anna Graves was sidelined with a stress reaction in her foot, noted Holcombe.

That didn’t stop Graves, however, from being a team leader.

“She was still there as team captain and a great leader,” Holcombe said. “She’s a wonderful person to have on the field, but also great off the field and helps our team out.

“She would have loved to been out there running. The rest of the girls stepped up.

“After the race, she was excited for her teammates.”

Webb’s boys and girls will be competing in an upcoming regional meet soon at Cary, N.C. that includes runners from eight states.

“We hope Anna can go to Cary and be able to run,” said Coach Holcombe.