The Hilltoppers had five of the top-nine finishers to overcome a record-setting pace by Daniel Boone’s top two runners and the Trailblazers having three of the first five finishers. The final result was a 29-35 victory for Science Hill over the defending conference and Class AAA state champions.
Noah Charles played the role of rabbit for the ’Toppers with a goal of setting a fast pace early. Charles ultimately wound up sixth (16:57), while other scores for the Hilltoppers came from Alex Crigger in third (16:09), Soresa Gemechu in fourth (16:50), Alex Grajeda in seventh (17:05) and Harrison Barrett in ninth (17:13).
“They’re just amazing,” Science Hill coach Jennifer Brockett said. “We knew it was going to be a numbers game today and they needed to pack together and put as few people between each other as possible. We needed our No. 4 and 5 guys to close up the gap and they did what they were supposed to do. That’s really what pushed it. Both our boys and girls stepped up big today.”
Brockett referred to Science Hill sweeping team titles as the girls had the top-three finishers and won by a 27-50 margin over runner-up Dobyns-Bennett.
But, it was the boys’ race where a rivalry between Boone and Science Hill has been talked about since the end of last season.
Up front, Boone’s Josh Routh finished in 15:45 and Ben Varghese was just three seconds behind as both beat former teammate Adam Barnard’s one-year-old meet record of 15:55. Unlike the Science Hill runners who sprinted to the front, Routh and Varghese used a strategy of being patient on the first lap before charging to the front the second time around the 5,000-meter course.
”We wanted to sit around the first half of the race and then go to work the second part,“ Routh said. ”I think we executed that well. Ben, he’s really running extremely well and it’s nice to have someone pushing you the whole race and in practice everyday.“
Behind the lead duo, Boone got a fifth-place finish from Mitch Bronstetter (16:52), while Zac Branham in 12th (17:28) and Caleb Sells in 15th (17:41) rounded out the Trailblazers’ scoring. Still, Science Hill packed enough runners together to overcome the overall speed of the ’Blazers whose average time was eight seconds quicker than the ’Toppers. The final result was a disappointment for a Boone program, which has become accustomed to winning championships and placing among the top teams nationally.
”Our top three ran great,“ Boone coach Len Jeffers said. ”As a team, we have to learn to run through adversity. It is what it is. Science Hill ran strong and they get a lot of credit with the way they ran. We just as a team have to take it as a learning experience and go from there.“
There was no surprise on the girls’ side as the Lady ’Toppers repeated as champions, and Lydia Lee led a sweep of top-three finishers with a 19:06 effort.
“It was really exciting. I knew this would be a hard course, but I felt really good,” Lee said. “It was really good to see us (finish) top three because our overall splits are getting closer together. I’m really happy about that.”
Halle Hausman finished runner-up at 19:30 and Gabrielle Mardis was third at 20:16. Others to score for the Lady ’Toppers were Julia Simpson in 10th and Casey Miller in 11th. All seven Science Hill runners earned All-Conference honors with Taylor Canfield in 14th and Katie Simpson in 15th.
“I’m really proud of Gabbi and Lydia, how they’ve really picked it up this year,” Hausman said. “This hasn’t been my best season, but I’m happy with what I have with God providing for me to be able to run. I’m a little more confident now going into regionals than I was the week before.”
Ashtyn Hagood of Dobyns-Bennett broke up the Science Hill contingent with a fourth-place run. Makayla Shaw of Daniel Boone was fifth, followed by Taylor Roy of David Crockett and Marley McCoy of Boone.
Boone was third in the team standings with 62 points. Maria Chellah in 12th also was All-Conference for the Lady ’Blazers, who also got points from Gracie Murray in 18th and Rachel Campbell in 20th.