By Steve Williams
Hardin Valley Academy has one of the best boys cross country teams in the nation.
Coach Bryan Brown’s Hawks, who won the TSSAA state championship last season with a junior dominated squad, was No. 17 in the nation in the preseason DyeStat XC Rankings.
The Hardin Valley team traveled to Charlotte in mid-September and was victorious in the Hare and Hounds Boys Championship 5K race, finishing first ahead of runner-up Millbrook (NC) and third place Coastal Christian (NC).
The Hawks were so balanced, their leading five runners finished in a 17 second spread – from Kaden Keller’s time of 15:58.31 to Ivan Bell’s 16:15.41. In between were teammates Daniel Blackston, Nathan Hillis and Asa Mazow.
HVA’s girls team placed second in its race.
Newbury Park, Calif., was No. 1 in the boys’ preseason Top 40.
In addition to the national recognition of the Hardin Valley boys’ team, Catholic’s Keegan Smith ran the fastest 5K time ever for a freshman (14:53.79) in September at the Southern Showcase in Huntsville, Ala.
Meanwhile, the Metro Knoxville XC Association hosted five weekly meets during the regular season.
“Meets are back to normal (size-wise),” said South-Doyle Coach Don Madgett, after smaller meets had to be used in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The annual KIL Championships will be held this coming Saturday morning at Sequoyah Park on Cherokee Boulevard. The girls’ race will start at 9 and the boys’ race at 9:45, with the awards presentation at 10:45.
Here’s a look at the highlights of this season/s weekly meets:
CHEROKEE FARM OPENER
Local runners eased into competition with a 2-mile race. Catholic’s Keegan Smith posted a winning boys’ time of 10:10. Bearden’s Cade Crum, also a 9th grader, finished second in 10:35. Farragut’s Trevor Coggin, Braden Ebbert and Harrison Cunningham placed 3-4-5.
Webb 8th graders Jazzlyn and Calysta Garmer were first and second in the girls’ race, clocking in at 12:18 and 12:21, respectively. Farragut senior Camryn Johnson was third at 12:29.
A total of 198 boys and 153 girls ran in the season opener.
VICTOR ASHE PARK
Knoxville Youth Athletics was the host as Alcoa senior Abdul Jaber defeated highly regarded Kaden Keller of Hardin Valley in the first 5K run. Jaber was timed in 16:36 and Keller in 16:42. Crum was third, Blackston fourth, Mazow fifth and First Baptist Academy senior Colten Lee sixth.
Harden Valley breezed to the team title with 26 points. The Hawks had a 34 second 1-5 split and averaged 17:02 per runner. Maryville (78) and Independence High (121) were a distant second and third.
Maryville senior Andie-Marie Jones, one of the state’s top female harriers, won the girls’ 5,000 meter race in 18:44. Sophomore Maddie Archdale, Hardin Valley’s leader, was second in 19:20.
Two West runners – freshman Kristina Weaver and sophomore Kate Robinson – placed third and fourth, respectively.
Hardin Valley (60 points), GPS (72) and West (74) led in the team scoring.
Keegan Smith ran his first 5K in several years but still won in 15:47. Farragut junior Trevor Coggin was runner-up in 16:02. Alcoa standout Abdul Jaber came in third at 16:04.
Farragut sophomore Braden Ebbert was sixth in 16:13 and Bearden’s Cade Crum eighth in 16:22. Catholic senior Spencer Stovall (16:38) and Farragut sophomore Harrison Cunningham (16:46) rounded out the Top 10 in the biggest field of runners (313) thus far.
Andie-Marie Jones got another win in the Cherokee Classic with a time of 18:20. Madeline Wheatcroft, a senior for the CSTHEA Patriots, took second place in 18:38.
Science Hill’s Trinny Duncan placed third in 18:48, while West’s Kristina Weaver (19:01) and Farragut’s Camryn Johnson (19:05) completed the Top 5.
The girls’ field included 229 runners.
Farragut (75 points) took top team honors ahead of West (91) and Signal Mountain (109).
JOHNSON UNIVERSITY MEET
Bearden’s Cade Crum got his first win with a time 17:07. FBA’s Colten Lee was runner-up in 17:25.
Oak Ridge (40 points) led in the team scoring, while Bearden (124) was second.
Anderson County sophomore Kaitlyn Fisher crossed the girls’ finish line first with a time of 20:40. Bearden freshman Millie Lovett was second in 21:22 and Sydnee Sims of William Blount placed third in 21.36.
NORRIS DAM INVITATIONAL
Alcoa’s Abdul Jaber notched another victory as he covered the 5K in 16:10. Gatlinburg-Pittman’s Sam Fulton was second in 16:23, while Austin-East senior Dwayne Morris came in third place at 17:15.
Running near her high school, Anderson County’s Kaitlyn Fisher prevailed with a time of 18:50. Karns sophomore Rylee Gifford chalked up second place in 20:18.
Fisher’s victory helped the Lady Mavericks get the team win with 40 points. Alcoa (57) and Webb (64) placed second and third.
LOUDON COUNTY PARK
Colten Lee of First Baptist Academy claimed his first win with a time of 17:53. Dwayne Morris of A-E and Grace Christian’s Reilly Mehegan finished fourth and seventh, respectively.
G-P’s Stefani Johnson (22:25) and Karns sophomore Rylee Gifford (22:51) placed 1-2 in the girls’ race.