Sarah Zimmer, Harold Smith Win Chattanooga Cross Country Festival Titles
McCallie Boys Win; GPS Girls Finish Third
The hills on the cross country course at Chickamauga Dam are relentless. Some high school runners love them and take advantage while others hate them and suffer every time they are forced to climb one.
Whatever the case, the annual Chattanooga Cross Country Festival was held there Saturday morning with almost 1,000 runners for middle school, junior varsity and varsity teams competing for individual and team honors.
Sarah Zimmer of the Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) was victorious in the girls race as she covered the double-looped 3.
1-mile course in 20 minutes, 35 seconds while runner-up Anna Kate Chance of Columbia Central was next in 20:56.
Karla Vradenburgh of Chattanooga Home School was third in 21:08 while Signal Mountain's Mallory Young was fourth in 21:16 and Lenoir City's Haley Morris fifth in 21:18.
Columbia was the team winner for the girls with 92 points while CAK was second with 101. The GPS Bruisers were third with 107 as Lucy Whitfield led the way with a tenth-place time of 22:17.
Bradley's Harold Smith was the winner among the guys as he outlasted East Hamilton's Nick McCormick to win by 11 seconds in 16:26.
McCallie teammates Derek Barnes and Matthew Jones were third and fourth, respectively, with times of 16:58 and 17:04 while Lenoir City's Nathan Jones was fifth in 17:24.
McCallie's Ramsey Ritchie was sixth in 17:25 as the Blue Tornado won with 37. Druid Hills was a distant second with 86 points while Germantown was third with 127.
Zimmer and Chance ran together for the first half of the girl's race, but by the time they made the final turn and headed downhill toward the finish line, the CAK junior was all alone in the lead with Chance all alone in second.
"I just tried to stay with the other girl for the first mile, but I didn't take the lead until the second loop," the 16-year-old Zimmer said afterward while sipping on a cup of water.
"I just wanted to try my best and see how it went, but the Lord pulled through for me. We came out here Friday afternoon and ran the wrong course, but it wasn't too bad once we got started today. I liked it," she added.
Chance has run this race on two other occasions, but Saturday was her best finish.
"She took off after the first loop and I couldn't stay with her," Chance reflected on her race with Zimmer.
"I ran about a minute slower than last week at the Tennessee Classic and I'm not sure what the problem was. I'm just glad I was able to stay up front. I wish I could have run faster, but I'm pleased with my place," she nodded.
Lenoir City's Jones was the leader at the first mile with Smith fourth and McCormick fifth. By the time they passed the Chickamauga Lake shoreline the second time, Smith and McCormick were side-by-side with nobody else within striking distance.
Smith has a strong kick, but he also proved he has some strength for the hills and that's where he took charge in Saturday's race.
"It was a good race with a great challenge on a difficult course," Smith explained after a couple of minutes to catch his breath.
"I just told myself to not stop and conquer the hills. Nick didn't stay with me on the hill the second time, but I felt good when I went to the starting line. I knew it was my day when I topped the hill in the final mile. This is my first time to win a race, so it feels pretty good," the 17-year-old junior nodded.
McCormick is having an outstanding season, but Saturday wasn't one of his better races.
"It was really a hard race, but he just beat me today," he said later.
"He took off when he hit the hill the second time and just kept pulling away. I wanted to be conservative in the first mile, but I think I went out too fast again. And I think I underestimated the toughness of the hills," the East Hamilton senior nodded.
McCallie coach Mike Wood was sweating almost as much as his runners after running from point to point on the course during the race.. He was happy with the way things turned out.
"I think so," he began when asked if his team finished first.
"I wanted our top three runners to stay together and for our fourth man to stay close. They all pretty much did that. Then our fifth man had a good day and I was proud of that since this is his first year to run at McCallie.
"This is a good start for our team as this is our first meet of the season. I know we still have a lot of work to do. We just wanted to run as a pack for the first mile, pick it up a little in the second mile and see what happened at the end. I'm happy with the way things turned out," Wood said later.
For the varsity races, there were 127 girls and 17 teams while 161 boys finished with 21 teams scoring.
The next regular-season race for the Chattanooga Cross Country League will be Tuesday afternoon at Baylor.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)