In 40 years of hosting the Trailblazer Invitational cross country meet, Daniel Boone had never had an individual champion.
That all changed Saturday.
Junior Adam Barnard finished the five-kilometer course in 15:40 to become the first Boone runner to win the 41st annual meet. The significance wasn’t lost on Barnard, who paid tribute to the school’s cross country program which has produced state champions in 1981 and 1998, and a state runner-up last season.
“That’s pretty humbling,” Barnard said after his cool-down. “There have been some amazing runners. Coach (Len) Jeffers himself came through here, so to be the only one who has ever won on this course, it’s pretty special to me. It’s something I will never forget.”
Led by Barnard, the Trailblazers captured the team championship for a third straight year.
They placed three runners in the top 10, and five in the top 20 to take a 49-123 team victory over runner-up Dobyns-Bennett. Science Hill was third in the team standings with 124 points.
“I’m very pleased. I thought our boys ran well, ran extremely tough,” said Jeffers, who was recently honored as TSSAA Coach of the Year for the previous season. “There is always extra incentive when it’s your meet, it’s on your course and you’ve won it the previous two years. Being able to defend the title, defend the home turf, they wanted to get a feel for what region is going to be like. I’m extremely pleased with their efforts, their race and everything about it.”
Barnard finished 12 seconds ahead of Wesley Pectol of Greeneville for the individual crown. Brad Swiney of John Battle (Va.) finished third at 16:05 with Sullivan East’s Luke Meade and Brandon Laws of Sevier County rounding out the top five.
Familiarity with the course certainly helped Barnard, who finished 19 seconds faster than his time in the meet a year ago. The surroundings certainly helped when he changed strategy in the middle of the race.
“My original plans were to make it two miles behind somebody and not have to lead any,” Barnard said. “We were just going too slow, so about 1.3 or 1.4 miles, I decided I was ready to go. I may have paid a little price for it at the end because I got really tired, but hey, I finished.”
Others scoring for Boone came from James Garst in sixth (16:28), Josh Routh in ninth (17:00), Mitch Bronstetter in 15th (17:20) and Jacon Cutshall in 18th (17:27).
Alex Crigger led Science Hill’s efforts. The freshman completed the course in 17:17 for a 14th-place finish and teammate Noah Charles was nine seconds behind with a 17th-place run.
Other top 25 efforts included Noah Jones of University High in 13th (17:16) and his teammate Levi Carter in 23rd (17:54). Daniel Bolognese of Elizabethon placed one spot behind Carter in 24th (17:58).
On the girls side, Science Hill freshman Halle Hausman finished in the runner-up spot with her time of 19:27, some 35 seconds behind Morristown West sophomore Makenzie Jones. Dobyns-Bennett freshman Sophia Neglia was third with Tennessee High senior Macy Carrier and Mary Easton of Lebanon, Va., rounding out the top five.
“I was staying with Macy Carrier a long time and then I started working my way up,” Hausman said. “Near the end, Sophia was right in front of me. I was like, ‘I might as well finish strong,’ and I ended up passing her.”
Jones led Morristown West to a third straight team title, 40-56 over Dobyns-Bennett, with Saturday’s time of 18:52 being one of her better efforts. She said the layout of the course helped her pull away to an easy win.
“Today, I felt really good,” Jones said. “We run so many hills where we train at Panther Creek (State Park). Today, I wanted to get out fast, work the hills and finish strong. ”
Science Hill finished third in the team competition with 73 points. In addition to Hausman, Katie Lance finished tenth for the Lady ‘Toppers (20:16), followed by Casey Miller in 21st (21:38), Lydia Lee in 25th (22:01) and Alicia DeVos in 26th (22:05).
Head coach Jennifer Brockett was pleased with the overall efforts of her short-handed squads. They were missing one of their top boys’ runners, Bradley Tongco, from Saturday’s meet and standout Sarah Fickley was absent from the girls’ competition.
“This was kind of like a region preview with all the major teams,” Brockett said. “Judging from today, it should go really well. We’ve got everyone healthy and ready to go. Katie Lance, my second girl, ran great today, and the boys looked great. We were missing Bradley, but we had a nice little pack behind the lead group. Alex is still learning and figuring out what to do, but he’s gutsy and not afraid to try things out.”
Maci Shell of Elizabethton finished 18th (21:05) and Grayson Loyd of Boone also finished in the top 25 with a 21:48 pace.
Earlier in the morning, Zac Branham of University High pulled off a major surprise in the junior varsity competition. He emerged as the winner of the boys’ race, finishing ahead of the runners from all the larger schools.
Many of those larger schools will now turn their attention to conference action. The Big Seven Conference championships are scheduled for Thursday at Steele Creek Park in Bristol.