The Oak Ridge boys’ cross country team finished sixth in the state championship in Nashville on Saturday.
It was the Wildcats’ best finish since 2009, when Oak Ridge placed second, Coach Allen Etheridge said.
“It’s a really solid step for us,” Etheridge said.
He said the young team ran okay on the Percy Warner Park Steeplechase Course in Nashville, but it wasn’t Oak Ridge’s best race. Etheridge said the five-kilometer (3.1-mile) course and the intensity of the competition and other factors might have surprised the boys a bit.
Still, he’s pleased that eight of his Top 10 runners are coming back next year, and so are six of the Top Seven.
“We’ve definitely got the making of a championship-caliber team coming back for us,” Etheridge said.
The top runner for Oak Ridge on Saturday was junior Wesley Robinson, who, before this year, had taken a few years off to play soccer but finished 29th on Saturday with a time of 16:57.03.
The Top 3 teams were Brentwood High School (49 points), Daniel Boone High School (100), and Hardin Valley Academy (133). Oak Ridge had 238 points. Winners are determined by adding the places for the top five runners for each team, and the low score wins.
The top individual runner was senior Aaron Templeton of Hardin Valley. He finished with a time of 15:10.57, a new course record on the state course, Etheridge said. Templeton also set a course record of 15:16.44 during an Oct. 24 regional competition at Victor Ashe Park in Knoxville, when the Oak Ridge boys’ team placed second behind Hardin Valley.
Besides Robinson, the other Top Seven runners for Oak Ridge on Saturday were senior Ian Barclay (17:30.17), sophomore Thomas Colburn (17:33.38), sophomore Tyler Boullie (17:35.88), sophomore Daniel Beckett (17:56.23), sophomore Richard Martin (18:06.60), and freshman Jacob Etheridge (18:27.43).
Oak Ridge and Arlington were tied at sixth place, but the Wildcats’ sixth-place runner, Richard Martin, who had a good race, finished with a better time than Arlington’s sixth-place runner, breaking the tie and putting Oak Ridge ahead of the Tigers, Etheridge said.
The best race for the Wildcats likely belonged to Colburn, who has been “up and down” this season but finished third for Oak Ridge.
Etheridge said the Wildcats will take three weeks off, then start track conditioning and weight room workouts.
He said Oak Ridge has had six state championships and four runner-up teams during his tenure and then had a few years when they struggled.
But the boys running now are very competitive and want to do well, he said.
“We’re on our way back,” Etheridge said.
The girls’ team did not qualify for the state championship during the Oct. 24 regional meet—they placed fourth—but the team did make strides on where it was last year, Etheridge said.
“We feel like the girls are on a similar course as the guys, back to being relevant at the state level,” Etheridge said.
Saturday’s Class AAA State Boys Cross Country Meet included 24 teams and 190 runners. See the complete results here.