By KEVIN WEAKS
NASHVILLE — Mission accomplished.
While no one brought back any hardware — other than medals around their necks, that is — from the TSSAA Class A-AA State Cross Country meet on Saturday afternoon, both the Obion Central girls’ team and Union City senior Daniel Williamson did what they set out to do.
The Central girls were looking to crack the top five girls’ teams, while Williamson wanted to finish as one of the 10 best male runners in the state.
Check, and check.
The Lady Rebels posted a third-place finish in the team standings with 124 points, 24 behind runner-up Macon County (100) and 28 off the total put up by state champion Christian Academy of Knoxville (96). The No. 3 finish tied the best-ever produced by the program, equaling the 2002 team.
“Most definitely, we accomplished what we came here to do,” OC head coach Pam Daniel said. “We were right in there. To be in the top three is exciting. We were shooting top five, so this is very exciting.”
Central posted a total time of 1:55:59.92, averaging 23:11.99
Williamson, meanwhile, made his final high school meet a memorable one as well with a time of 17:30.21 to place 10th overall. He, along with several OC runners, will compete in the Reelfoot Road Race in Union City this weekend and then begin preparing for spring track season as a member of the Golden Tornado squad. There is also the matter of signing a college grant-in-aid, which he will do for Tennessee Tech in February.
“That was his goal coming in,” UC first-year head coach John Parr said. “He was a little upset with his time, which was a little slower than last year. But, he did a great job today and overall all year.”
The Central boys finished 21st overall in the 24-team boys’ meet, totaling 518 points and running a combined time of 1:44:23.83 for an average time of 20:52.77.
“It just wasn’t one of their better meets,” Daniel said. “But, just to make it here was an accomplishment. We have a lot of strong boys’ teams in our region.”
To achieve their goals, the Lady Rebs and Williamson did what got them to Nashville in the first place.
The Central girls, with no dominant runner, instead has several very solid runners who bunch together at the finish line to keep the times close and the total score low.
OC’s top five runners, placed between 13 and 33 in the point standings, separated by just over one minute and 15 seconds.
Sophomore Rachel Jones was once again the leader of the pack with a 21st-place spot, picking up 13 points with a time of 22:20.40
The next four Lady Rebel runners were within seconds of each other. Nichole Whitson was 32nd overall, picking up 21 points with a time of 23:12.16, Tia Parks finished 38th (27 points) with a time of 23:23.73, Brenna Wilkins ran 43rd (30 points) in 23:27.86 and Peyton Daniel was 48th (33 points) in a time of 23:35.77.
Nicole Storey was next in 25:26.25 to finish 100th overall, and Allison Ward rounded out the Lady Rebels’ effort with a time of 26:31.32 for a 126th-place spot.
“Our two, three, four and five runners finished within several seconds of each other, which is exactly what we had to do,” Daniel said. “We have five very consistent runners, and some days as many as even or eight. Those five really packed it in there today, especially our two through five runners. That’s what saved us.”
The girls’ field had 183 runners.
Williamson, meanwhile, had the strategy of laying back, letting the quick starters wear themselves out, and then making a strong push to the finish line.
“I wanted to do what I did at regionals by starting slow,” Williamson said. “At the second mile, I pushed it pretty hard and passed five or six people. Then, at the third mile, I just tried to hold on to a top 15 position. I was really happy with what I did. I wanted to do the best I could, this being my last race, and I feel I accomplished that.”
Williamson, the lone UC runner for much of his prep career, has basically been adopted by the Rebel teams — showing that the city and county can get along somewhere — and after completing his final meet showed his appreciation to both his Union City coaches and Rebel “assistants.”
“I just want to thank coach (Eddie) Suiter for starting the program,” Williamson said. “Without him, I wouldn’t even be here. I appreciate coach Parr for coming in this season and working with me, coach Daniel for all she’s done, and Chuck Parks helped me improve so much. Without him, I wouldn’t be in the position to run in college.”
The top Rebel boys’ runner was Alex Terrell, finishing 91st (72 points) in a time of 19:58.69. Jaime Torres was 116th (93) in 20:33.67, Austin Riley was 139th (114) in 21:11.76, Coleman Dunn placed 143rd (12) in 21:16.87, and Ian Miller took 146th (121) in 21:22.84.
Daniel Garcia finished 157th in a time of 21:45.50, and Dakota Eaves placed 173rd in 22:40.98 to round out the Rebel effort.
Several factors weighed in on OC’s lower than expected finish. Eaves was battling a back injury, while Dunn has been getting geared up for one sport (basketball) while winding down his cross country season.
Published in The Messenger 11.5.12