â€‰ ELIZABETHTON — Daniel Boone left no doubt Saturday that cross country is truly a team sport.
With five runners grouped within a minute of each other, the Trailblazers overcame great individual performances by Dobyns-Bennett’s Chris McElroy and Science Hill’s Brennon Nelson to win the inaugural Bluegrass Cross Country Festival race at Sycamore Shoals State Park.
On the girls’ side, Science Hill had two of the top three runners and five in the top 20 to win 47-61 over Farragut.
Roderick Bowman and Chad Whitehead led the way for the Boone boys with finishes of fourth and fifth, respectively. In addition, the Trailblazers received top efforts from Jordan Roth (12th), Adam Barnard (17th) and Caleb Cutshall (20th). Although their scores didn’t count, Jacob Cutshall and Adam Whitfield also placed in the top 30.
It gave the ’Blazers a 58-72 win over Farragut, with Science Hill third at 82.
“It was a group effort with so many of them contributing in so many ways,” Boone head coach Len Jeffers said. “You knew it was going to be tough with Farragut, Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett and the double-A schools like Greeneville and UH.
“We knew it would be a challenge, but the boys have accepted all the challenges. They wanted to go against the best and see where they stood. It was a good win for the team, good for the boys. ”
McElroy scored the individual victory at 15:54, while Nelson stayed with him much of the way, ultimately finishing 14 seconds behind.
“We’ve been racing each other since middle school,” Nelson said. “He’s a really strong runner, so it’s always fun to come out and compete against him. We ran some really fast times on a fast course.”
Adding to Science Hill’s efforts, Davon Woodmancy racked up an eighth-place finish, Adam Montano was 19th, Brad Tongco was 26th and Joey Dunham was 27th.
“We lost our No. 2 runner, Nik Hopkins, with tendonitis in the knee and that’s really hurt us,” Science Hill head coach Buddy Thomas said. “But, our other guys today really stepped it up. Brennon really looked good. Davon Woodmancy ran a sub-17 (minute effort) for the first time and Adam Montano ran his heart out. He collapsed at the line where he gave 110 percent.”
Among the other top finishers was Gabe Perry of University High, who finished 16th overall with a personal best 17:09.
The day’s biggest surprise came on the girls’ side when Emily Williams of Sullivan Central used a late sprint to edge Science Hill’s Molly Foster for the individual title.
In the battle of the talented juniors, Williams crossed the finish line at 18:33, two seconds ahead of Foster.
“She put up an excellent fight,” Williams said. “I don’t think either one of us would have run that fast today if it wasn’t for the other one. When you go up against a competitor second in the state, you don’t know how the race is going to go, but it’s best not to look at who you beat, but the time you ran.”
Having Williams on her heels was quite a surprise for Foster, who has dominated the local competition over the past two seasons.
“I knew she was right behind me, so I tried to go harder,” Foster said. “We just kind of pushed together the whole time, but the final corner I don’t know what happened.
“I’m really happy to be somewhere in the 18:30s, but I wanted the big “W.” But, I’ll take this for early in the season.”
Still, Foster’s efforts helped Science Hill take the team crown. Others scoring for the Hilltoppers included Martha McCoy (third), freshman Katie Lance (seventh), Courtney Keith (15th) and Alicia DeVos (20th). Olivia Greeley and Sarah Fickley placed 23rd and 35th, respectively.
“I felt really good about it,” Science Hill head coach Jennifer Brockett said. “I knew Farragut was going to be tough with the way they were packed together. It was all about getting out front.”
Among the other local teams, Daniel Boone finished seventh and Unicoi County placed ninth. University High had two personal bests with Landry Loving (14th place) at 20:39 and Sterlin Elliot (16th) at 20:48.