Sophomore Nick Daniel led the two-time defending state champion University High boys by sprinting out to an early lead and continuing to push over the next mile before settling in. He finished the 5k course in 18:36, nine seconds ahead of runner-up Chandler Dalton of West Greene.
“It was good to go out and then feel like I could hold a steady pace,” Daniel said. “We’ve been practicing all year for this and I’ve worked hard. It’s exciting to be the individual champion, but it’s exciting to win as a team. They are tons of fun, great guys to run with and it makes it easier, a lot more fun to practice.”
The Bucs also got points from fifth-place Hayden Charles (18:50), seventh-place Nate Tucker (19:33) eighth-place Thomas Johnson (19:45) and 11th-place Raiden Ramacus-Perdue (19:52) to take a close win 32-34 over West Greene.
Although University High barely squeaked by in the region, Daniel and his teammates still have confidence as the Bucs will go for their third straight and the program’s fourth state championship overall.
“There’s a little pressure, but I believe in everybody on this team,” Daniel said. “I think we can go down there and do well.”
UNIVERSITY GIRLS WIN
University High beat runner-up Happy Valley 19-56 for their third straight girls’ title. It came on the heels of Maggie Whitson receiving an honor as the TSSAA coach of the year for 2018-19.
The Lady Bucs had five of the race’s top seven finishers.
“The girls have worked hard to get themselves in a position of winning the team and individual titles,” Whitson said. “We did that as well in the boys, even though we had to restructure ourselves with what redefined us over previous years. We had to find a new way to run together and win the championship.”
University High’s Isabelle Johnson took the individual title at 22:14, five seconds ahead of Washburn’s Emily Coffey. Happy Valley’s Holly Moore was third at 22:38 while University High took the next four spots with Melina Summey at 22:46, Camilla Rivas at 23:33, Anna Bader at 23:50 and Anna Davidson at 24:17.
“It was tough. The girl behind me was on my back the whole time so I had to push,” Johnson said. “I like winning, but I like winning even more with my team. It feels better when you do it as a team.”
While their scores didn’t count toward the team total, Isabelle Dunkelberger in 13th and Kirsten Day in 15th earned all-region honors.
Haley Miller finished ninth (24:36) to earn all-region for Happy Valley. Other Lady Warrior scores came from Aubrie Caldwell, Kalee Roark and Kalee Lane.
WARRIORS QUALIFY FOR STATE
It was all happy with Happy Valley, which finished a distant third in the boys’ race — but beat South Greene by a point for the final state berth. Jacob Absher led the way with an all-region effort of 19:45.
The Warriors also got scores from Spencer Babb, Gavin Call, Cameron Slone and Skyler McCurry.
“We’re really happy with it,” Happy Valley coach Matt Estep said. “We were wanting the girls to get back to state and then I wanted our Jacob and our other senior boys to get back to state. We ran really well today. Cameron Slone plays football on Friday nights for us and then he comes out and runs his p.r. today. I’m proud of them all around.”