The Dobyns-Bennett Lady Indians defended their team title successfully behind a strong winning performance by two-time defending state champion Sasha Neglia breaking her own meet record with a 18:09.3, winning by over a minute.
Neglia sprinted to the front from the gun and the outcome was pretty much a forgone conclusion after she came through the first mile in a blazing 5:24.
“I felt really good out there. The weather certainly made a difference,” Neglia said. “There’s a big difference between running in this weather and running in the high 80’s. I feel pretty good about the season so far, but I’m still training through races because I want to run fast later in November. That’s been the goal.”
However, the Lady Indians had company up front as Myers Park (NC) was just four points behind the Tribe (42-46). Emma Russum continued her strong season for D-B with a third-place finish and a personal record on the course at 19:38.
“Emma has run really well the past two weeks. She’s racing like she’s been practicing,” D-B head coach Bob Bingham said. “The girls are continuing to come along. They ran against Brentwood last week and they beat us and, of course, we’ve run against Science Hill and they’ve beat us. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’re nowhere close to hitting on all cylinders yet.”
Host Boone was third with 57 points and ran their best race of the year so far. The Lady ’Blazers were led by a sixth-place from Judy Chellah, who posted a 20:18 on her home course.
Taylor Roy of David Crockett led the Lady Pioneers to a fourth-place team finish by placing fifth in 20:00.
The Region 1-AAA championship meet will be at Boone again in 13 days from Saturday and it will be essentially four teams fighting for three spots.
University High took another step into trying to move up the podium from a third-place finish at state last year with a fifth-place team finish (157 points). The Lady Bucs ran with only five scorers, but they were packed closely — with the first four coming in within 48 seconds of each other.
Other notable individual finishes were Elizabethton’s Lauren Pilkton (7th; 20:20), Cherokee’s Harper Russell (14th; 20:43) and Unicoi County freshman Marissa Soulier (21st, 21:16).
University High’s Porter Bradley pulled off quite an upset in the varsity boys race, crossing the line in 16:47. The senior has been on a tear this season, highlighted by two big performances at Bristol Cross and Saturday at Trailblazer.
Bradley took a huge gamble early in the race after the opening mile by taking the lead with some of the hardest parts of the course left to face.
However, that did not faze Bradley as he extended his lead in the next mile and looked up “Moody’s Hill” on the backside of the course with a sizable margin over Dobyns-Bennett’s Tyler Mays. He never looked back after that quick peek over his shoulder. Mays would finish second in 16:57.
“I knew I wanted to win today,” Bradley said. “I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I just saw that opportunity and went for it. This race definitely has my confidence high.”
The Trailblazers won the boys race on the team side (52 points) with a strong fifth-place showing by freshman Conner Wingfield (17:09). The freshman has led the ’Blazers two of the last three races and continues to impress.
Boone senior Matt Huff filled the next spot in sixth (17:11) as the ’Blazers finished with three runners in the top 10. Max Austin was eighth in 17:20.
Boone was down a couple of usual varsity runners with Chance Bowman in the junior varsity race and one more due to sickness.
Bowman won the junior varsity race in 17:10.
“The boys had a gutsy performance being, in a sense, short-handed. We were essentially running with five of the top seven varsity members,” Boone head coach Len Jeffers said. “They pulled together and ran a great race. I can’t say enough about their efforts.”
A vastly improving Morristown West team finished second on the day with 88 points and is making a strong case for the third spot in the team race in two weeks at regionals.
Myers Park was third with 107 points while defending A/AA state champion University High was fourth with a total of 131.
Making an impressive showing, the Bucs finished in front of both Dobyns-Bennett (5th) and David Crockett (6th) in the team standings.
“From the front to the back, the boys ran solid,” UH head coach Maggie Whitson said. “I think Porter’s success is due to his hunger to race again. That’s been the breakthrough for him. He took some time off and he needed it. He took some time to really want to be back out there again and race. Today, it all came together and he executed.”
Other notable finishes included Crockett’s Hank Lowe in seventh at 17:14, UH’s Blake Ryan (11th; 17:27) and Cherokee’s Austin Kirkpatrick (14th; 17:38).
For the large schools, the Big 11 conference meet will be on Thursday, Oct. 18 at Steele Creek Park in Bristol. The region meet will be on Oct. 25.
For the small schools, the regional meet is also back at Boone on Oct. 25.