The Hilltoppers edged defending state champion Daniel Boone 30-31 for the Region 1-AAA boys championship Thursday afternoon less than two hours after Science Hill had beaten Morristown West for the girls championship.
Science Hill placed five runners in the boys’ top 10 to offset the Trailblazers’ three of the top five and five of the top 12.
Daniel Boone’s Josh Routh took the individual title at 16:01 and teammate Ben Varghese was four seconds. But, the Hilltoppers had Alex Crigger (16:24) in third and Noah Charles (16:38) in fourth. The ’Toppers also had top finishes from Alex Grajeda in sixth, Malick Gemechu in seventh and Harrison Barrett in 10th to take the school’s first region boys title since 2006.
“Not a bad day for us,” Science Hill coach Jennifer Brockett said. “The kids ran great. I couldn’t more proud of them. Harrison Barrett was the key component to the boys’ side and then Noah had a good day, gave us what we needed. We have the team averages in our locker room from over a decade. This is quite possibly the best team Science Hill has ever fielded.”
That was needed to beat a Boone team which is loaded up front and led by the senior Routh. Under picture-perfect conditions, Routh sprinted to the finish with a strong push from Varghese.
“Today was just amazing for running a race,” Routh said. “Having Ben as a training partner, he helps push me each and every day. We’ve built quite a tradition the last few years at Boone and it’s nice to keep on stringing that out.”
Charles used a different strategy for Science Hill than the one the Hilltoppers used to beat Boone by six points at last week’s Big 7 Conference championships. At the Big 7 meet, Charles played the role of rabbit early in the race, while this time he and Crigger stayed glued to Routh and Varghese for the first half of the race.
”It was a different mentality going into this race than the last race,“ Charles said. ”Last race, I just tried to go out and see what I could do. This race, I tried to sit back, let everybody do their thing and react to it. I’m pretty excited with the outcome. Three years in a row, we came in second place as a team. It’s a long awaited victory.“
It was tough for Boone to lose to Science Hill on its own course, but the Trailblazers still had six runners make All-Region honors. Science Hill and Boone combined to take 11 of the top 13 positions.
Mitch Bronstetter (16:53) finished fifth for Daniel Boone, while the ’Blazers took positions 11-13 with Daniel Johnson (17:37), Zac Branham (17:38) and Caleb Sells (17:45).
”From a spectator view, it was an awesome race to watch,“ Boone coach Len Jeffers said. ”It was a great race with two great teams who have gone nip-and-tuck over the past couple of weeks. Everyone ran their best and everybody knew what was at stake. It was why it ended up a great race with everyone putting their best foot forward.“
Dakoatah Lyons of David Crockett also earned All-Region honors with his 17:48 effort, good for 15th place.
Luke Meade led Sullivan East to a sweep of individual and team championships in the Class A/AA competition.
Meade finished in 16:03, over a minute ahead of Will Cronin of Greeneville.
In the team standings, East beat the Greene Devils 47-51, while third-place University High also qualified for the state meet with 70 points.
Freshmen Jeb Jones (17:42) and Porter Bradley (17:56) led the Bucs to individual finishes of fourth and eighth, respectively. University High also got points from Pablo Rivas (18:25) in 10th, Colin Daniel (19:34) in 22nd and Caleb Strickler (19:50) in 26th.
“I feel this is a good indicator of where this team can be for the next four years,” UH coach Adam McElroy said. “Our top two runners, Jeb Jones and Porter Bradley, did a good job of giving us a 1-2 punch. Another freshman, Colin Daniel, really stepped up to finish fourth on the team and to give us the points we needed.”
Ethan Fields and Luke Collins of Elizabethton barely missed All-Region honors with finishes of 16th and 17th.
The state championship meet is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7 at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.