STORY BY CHIP CIRILLO | PHOTOS BY WHITNEY JARRELD AND CIRILLO
Brentwood Academy’s boys capped a perfect day with a nearly perfect race.
BA swept the boys and girls individual and team titles at the Division II-AA cross country meet at the Percy Warner Park Steeplechase Course on Saturday.
The Eagles scored 17 points in the boys race, two short of a perfect 15, after sweeping the top four spots on the 5-kilometer course.
“Certainly, I knew we had a good group coming into today, but I wasn’t envisioning that, for sure,” BA boys coach Marshall Smith said. “All five of [our] guys had tremendous races.”
Senior Matthew Porter won the state title with a 16:00.63 to finish ahead of teammates Matthew McMillan (16:26.57), George Payne (16:29.86) and Cayden Burrough (16:37.90).
It was BA’s best showing at the state meet since scoring 19 in 2015.
Montgomery Bell Academy won a state title with a perfect 15 in 2010.
BA’s Eddie Lunn was only two seconds short of a fifth-place finish that would have given the Eagles a perfect 15.
Lunn was 12th with 800 meters left before surging to seventh with a 16:47.73.
“Our No. 5 kind of had a breakthrough day,” Smith said. “He had a huge race.”
McCallie’s Samuel Ligon took fifth in 16:45.81 and Christian Brothers’ Constantine Campbell claimed sixth with a 16:46.93.
“This is a pretty senior-laden group: four really good seniors,” Smith said. “They kind of led the way and the other guys followed.”
BA finished 40 points ahead of runner-up McCallie.
Porter finished nearly 26 seconds ahead of McMillan, a Tennessee commit and defending champion who has been hampered by a hip injury.
“The plan this time was to surge in the middle of the race and take that risk to try and separate from my teammate,” said Porter, who finished eight seconds behind McMillan in 2017. “And in the end it worked out well. My coach knew what he was doing.”
BA senior Coco Holliday won the DII-AA girls title with a 19:45.82, finishing more than seven seconds ahead of runner-up Kylie Wittman, her teammate. Holliday overcame a foot injury to win the championship.
“We went through the first mile with my teammates, so that felt good to have company,” said Holliday, an Ivy league prospect. “Then I took it from there, basically.”
BA’s Whitney Powell took fourth (20:17.16) and teammate Elizabeth Heckman was seventh (20:44.31).
“That was our goal: to get as many in the top 10 as we possibly could,” BA girls coach Josh Parkey said. “[Coco and Kylie] are training partners and they’ve been training together all year. BA has such a great culture of running.”
BA won the girls title with 32 points, finishing 36 head of runner-up Harpeth Hall.
Boys & Girls Cross Country Teams – State Champs 🥇🏆🦅 pic.twitter.com/j8cHfI0bWM
— Eagle Sports Broadcast Network (@ESBN_BA) November 3, 2018
Franklin Road Academy junior Andrew Cox won the DII-A boys title with a personal-record 16:24.74, finishing nearly 14 seconds ahead of runner-up Nick Sieders of University School of Nashville.
“That was a PR by, like, 20 seconds,” said Cox, who took sixth in 2017. “I guess I just finally went for it. That’s kind of been the problem this season. I’m not mentally fully going for it. I don’t know if there’s a feeling better than first. It’s just amazing.”
Chattanooga Christian took the boys team title with 61 points and FRA was fifth. Battle Ground Academy finished eighth.
Christ Presbyterian Academy’s Lacy Sheppard (20:41.91) took seventh on the girls behind champion Niki Narayani (18:20.43) of Knoxville Webb.
CPA’s girls (124) took sixth behind champion Knoxville Webb (31).
Photos below by Jarreld
Page’s Leigh Walters (18:25.01) took third behind champion Jenna Hutchins of Science Hill (17:37.01).
“I actually didn’t feel that good today, but I just still tried to push through it,” Walters said. “I think I might be coming down with a cold.”
It appeared Dobyns-Bennett’s Sasha Neglia would win her third consecutive state title, but she was disqualified for going the wrong way around a tree about 200 meters from the finish line.
The junior came across the finish line first and shortly after that a race official told her about the disqualification. She broke down into tears.
“She came inside of the tree instead of outside,” Dobyns-Bennett coach Bob Bingham said. “The course was not clearly marked. We had people on the course. Inside was wide-open. Evidently, what she did was illegal.
“It looked like what you were supposed to do. At some of those big races they have something that leads the runners all the way through. It sucks for my kid. People work their butt off and it turns out like that, and it doesn’t seem like there’s justice. It just seems wrong.”
Neglia and Hutchins were close together at the front of the pack when the two-time defending champion took the shorter path inside the tree off the course.
Knoxville West (130) won the girls title and Brentwood (168) finished third. Independence took 11th.
In the boys division, Centennial’s Davis Bove (15:45.59) took fourth behind champion Jake Renfree (15:25.58) of Knoxville Catholic.
Franklin (189) finished fourth in the team standings behind champion Siegel (73). Ravenwood was 12th.
1, Emerson Fulton (Gatlinburg-Pittman) 16:41.02
1, University School-Johnson City 79
8, Grace Christian Academy 248
Loral Wynn (Dresden) 19:37.02
1, Signal Mountain 44