Saturday morning’s 47th edition of the cross country race provided another piece of history for one of Northeast Tennessee’s all-time greats.
Dobyns-Bennett senior standout Sasha Neglia won the varsity girls race in a meet-record 17:35.1 for 5-kilometers and it was her fourth consecutive victory at the Trailblazer. Her own previous meet record was 18:09.3.
Her time was also just off her course record of 17:20 set at last season’s regional meet.
Only Angie Culbertson (Sullivan Central) from 1987-90 and Lesley Whitehead (Sullivan South) from 1981-84 have accomplished the “four-peat” on the female side.
No boy has won the varsity race four years in a row.
“I really love running this course and it’s always a good time,” Neglia said. “This course is so close to home and we all know the course pretty well. I feel like I do better when the course is tougher and I know I’m tough enough to do it.”
It was the first race for Neglia in three weeks, but she had been preoccupied with official collegiate visits and she recently committed to the University of North Carolina to continue her academic and athletic career. She also took visits to Princeton, Duke and North Carolina State.
“The coaches were amazing and the team vibe was great. I felt like I really fit in there,” she said.
The Lady Indians were also victorious on the team side, winning the team title for the fourth consecutive year with 43 points. Watauga (Boone, North Carolina) was second with 81 points.
The Tribe placed all of its scoring five inside the top 30 and had a team average of 19:34.0. Emma Russum was the runner-up, finishing in 19:18.3 while Julianna McReynolds was fourth overall in 19:33.8. Freshman Autumn Headrick was next across the line in 20:04.7 in ninth and Gracie Allen was 28th overall in 21:18.4.
“The girls have been good all year,” D-B head coach Bob Bingham said. “This is the first time that we’ve been back in the hills of East Tennessee in a while and I think I we handled it very well. Our first three did really well today and our top five have been consistent all year. Four of them are seniors, so we expect that out of them.”
Other locals that finished inside the top 25 were Daniel Boone freshman Kamryn Wingfield (8th, 19:48.0), Sullivan East sophomore Mandy Lowery (10th, 20:12.7), David Crockett junior Rachel Dulaney (11th, 20:21.7) and Boone’s Patricia Chellah (12th, 20:30.2).
WINGFIELD IMPRESSES ON HOME COURSE
Boone’s Conner Wingfield has had a standout sophomore campaign after having his track season cut short due to injury last spring.
On Saturday, he impressed with a third-place showing and a sparkling new personal best of 16:17.6. His team placed second — finishing behind Watauga — with 78 points. The Trailblazers seem to be running well at the right time and will look to have another solid showing at the conference and regional meets in the coming weeks.
“Overall, I thought my race was really good. I hung right with the first two runners and that was the plan. I just didn’t have the leg speed down the stretch,” he said. “I beat the virtual meet projections and the team did, too. We’re pretty happy about that.”
Madden Muhammad of Myers Park (Charlotte, North Carolina) was the individual champion in 16:12.1, outsprinting Watauga’s Avery Cannon out of Pride Park and onto the softball field to win by a narrow two-second margin.
The ’Blazers averaged 17:12.0 on their home course and all of their scoring five were in the top 25.
Behind Wingfield was freshman Bryson Lewis in 17:23.6 (16th), followed by Keaton Smith (18th in 17:25.0) then Max Austin (19th in 17:25.5) and Mason Lewis (22nd in 17:28.7).
The Union Bears came across the state line and performed well against schools nearly two or three times their size, finishing fifth overall on a course they’d never seen before.
The Bears averaged 17:38.8 and were led by Tanner Cusano’s eighth overall finish.
Other locals in the top 15 included Bristol Cross champion and Cherokee senior Austin Kirkpatrick in fifth (16:24.3) and Union’s Nathaniel Hersel in 10th (16:58.7).