The GCHS girls’ cross country team will compete in the state tournament on November 3.
According to TSSAA guidelines, in order to qualify for the state cross country championship race, individual runners must finish in the top ten in their respective regions, while teams must finish in the top three in their respective regions. In 2015, John David Dickerson, II finished third in the region and became the first GCXC runner ever to compete at the TSSAA State Championship. Two years later in 2017, Leo Penne, a French foreign exchange student, finished fourth in the region and became the second GCXC runner to advance to the TSSAA State Championship. The 2017 season was also the first year that GCHS had a girls’ XC team. At their first regional race that year, the girls earned a team score of 115, finishing just behind Sequatchie County High School which placed third, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, which placed second, and Signal Mountain High, which placed first. That near miss was on the mind of this year’s team as they competed in the Division I, Region 3 championship on October 24.
On the way to this championship race, the GCXC teams had plenty of reason to worry. At the 24/75 split, they became stuck in traffic due to an accident on the interstate. As the bus arrived at Camp Jordan, the girls’ team quickly exited the bus and hurried to the starting line with only minutes to spare. With runners from Bledsoe, Brainerd, CSAS, Loudon, Polk, Sequatchie, Signal, and Sweetwater, the girls barely had time to check out their competition before the starting gun was fired.
Once again, Signal Mountain dominated the race with seven of the top ten finishers. GCXC’s top three runners crossed the finish line within second of each other: Jadan Campbell (24:36) finished 14th, while Kaitlyn Kirby (24:45) finished 15th, and Makayla Kirby (24:51) finished 16th. Next to tear across the finish line was Sarah Barrett (26:20) with her fastest time of the season. Freshman Jocelyn Partin stormed through as Grundy’s fifth runner with a time of 29:09; on her heels was Kennedy Brady (29:17). Emily Stiefel finished at 32:04. As the assistant coach tracked runners and tallied team scores, it appeared that, once again, GCXC had fallen just short of placing third.
In the boys’ race, GCXC had some of their best times of the season and quite a few PRs (personal records). Chris Nance (18:31) finished 23rd, while Jaron Meeks (18:35) finished 25th. Tyler Shrum (19:27), Kase Johnson (19:54), Quaid Anderson (19:57), Lee Evans (20:57), and Cole Sanders (21:33) were pleased with their final race times of the season. Final team standings in the region for the boys were Signal Mountain-1st, Tellico Plains-2nd, Polk County-3rd, Sequatchie County-4th, CSAS-5th, GCHS-6th, Loudon-7th, Sale Creek-8th, Bledsoe-9th, and McMinn-10th.
Later that afternoon, when the official results were released via e-mail, Coach David Dickerson learned that the girls’ team scores had been miscalculated, and the final results revealed the following regional standings: Signal Mountain-1st, Sequatchie County-2nd, Grundy County-3rd, Sweetwater-4th, CSAS-5th, and Bledsoe-6th.
The following morning, the GCXC girls’ team was called to the office, and they were ecstatic to learn that they had secured a spot in GCHS sports history: they were going to be the first cross country team to race at the TSSAA Cross Country State Championship. After hugs, pictures, telephone calls, and a giant cookie, the girls were congratulated by their friends, classmates, and teachers for the remainder of the day. All of the miles, the sweat, the frustration, the exhaustion, the humidity, the scorching sun, and the drenching rains were worth it for this moment.
The GCXC girls will compete in the TSSAA Cross Country State Championship on November 3, at Percy Warner Park: Steeplechase Course, at 10 a.m. Congratulate Jadan Campbell (11), Kaitlyn Kirby (9), Makayla Kirby (11), Sarah Barrett (12), Jocelyn Partin (9), Kennedy Brady (11), and Emily Stiefel (12) on this tremendous accomplishment.
Cross country started at GCHS in 2012; this will be the third time in four years that GCHS runners have advanced to the TSSAA State Championship.