CARY, N.C.—The Great American Cross Country Festival is the largest and most competitive cross country meet in the Southeast. This year’s event included US #2 LaSalle, Rhode Island, as well as most of the top 15 teams in the Southeastern United States. The top event is the Race of Champions, and the meet includes several other varsity and junior varsity events.
The Oak Ridge girls were in the Seeded Invitational, while the boys got a last-minute invitation to the top-level Race of Champions. The Cross Country festival was in Cary, North Carolina, this past weekend.
The Wildcats’ best result of the day came in the ROC, where the boys finished 11th of 21 really competitive teams. LaSalle won with 132 points. Daniel Boone (Tennessee) was third with 144 and Brentwood (Tennessee) fifth with 216. Oak Ridge scored 291. The Wildcats set a school record for fastest team average on a 5K course at 16:18.
“Great result for us in only our second race of the season,” Oak Ridge cross country coach Allen Etheridge said. “Most of these teams have run between five to eight races this season and are race sharp already. That’s going to take us a few more races, which is fine. We ran well today and lined up well with our Tennessee competition.”
Etheridge said senior Wesley Robinson ran another personal record of 15:46 to take 23rd overall—a fine result.
“The race went out really, really fast, and he basically held his own,” Etheridge said. “I think he feels like he has a lot more in his tank, and I really think he’s right. I mean, how many top-level 5K races has he run? This is the fastest time an Oak Ridger has run on this course and is one of the fastest ever for us. He continues to give us that front end that we need.”
Gashaw Duhamel ran a lot better this week to set a PR of 16:16 and run number two for the Wildcats, Etheridge said.
“He was a lot more conservative this week, and that probably helped him quite a bit,” the coach said. “It’s going to take him a few more races to get comfortable, I think. Still, he’s got a ton of talent and looked good today.”
The coach said Tyler Boullie had probably the best race of the day, getting a PR of 16:19.
“He really got stronger as the race went on and took back 22 places over the second half of the race,” Etheridge said. “Solid result. He got a lot of help from Thomas Colburn, who kind of led Tyler and Gashaw out for the first mile and then finished number four for us.”
Daniel Beckett at the number 5 spot did a similar thing, taking back 16 places.
“We ran pretty well overall,” Etheridge said. “It’s easy to get in over your head and kind of lay an egg at a big event like this, but the guys were solid and never let on that it was anything other than just another race. We’re glad to be back in top-level racing.”
Etheridge said the girls varsity ran equally well to take fifth in the Seeded Invitational behind several of the better programs in the Southeast: Green Hope, North Carolina; EC Glass, Virginia; Tatnall, Delaware; and Bethlehem Central, Delaware, with a score of 148. Green Hope had 88 to win.
“Team-wise, we are starting to come together: We’ve been consistent through our first three races and have gotten better each time out,” Etheridge said.
Katharina Gallmeier was the number one runner again for the Wildcats, placing 12th with a PR of 19:47.
“Not only is that a strong result in a race like this, but she took back 10 places over the last 3k,” Etheridge said. “Great race for her.
“Same with Aislyn (Peacock), who set a PR of 20:07 to take 27th. That’s a good 1-2 for us in a crowded race like this. Again, they aren’t scared to stick their noses in the race and go for it.”
Megan Peters and Esther Gallmeier finished together at 35th and 36th in 20:32 and 20:33.
“For Megan, it’s the third straight race where she’s felt good and been able to go for it,” Etheridge said. “She’s gotten consistent and provides a lot of stability for our young team. Esther kind of got crowded out in the first, narrow mile, but then she settled into a solid race with Megan.”
Maddie Zawiswa and Robyn Wood ended up racing mostly together and finished the race with a PR for Robyn.
“She’s struggled to finish the last mile the last two races, but today she got through that really well,” Etheridge said.
“They’re in a really good place—they look like one of the best teams in our region and have run like one of the best teams in the state. I like where we’re going.”
The coach said the Wildcats ran a ton of JV races as well. Some of the better races included Jose Villegas, who ran 16:57 and made the varsity out of the Blue Invitational race. Peyton Gupton finished not far back of him and ran well.
“In fact, the whole group in that blue race ran really well and finished fourth against many teams’ varsity runners,” Etheridge said. “Asher Chance ran a PR of 18:47 in the boys JV race—a good race.
“I thought that Natalie Holthausen ran particularly well in the JV race in setting a PR of 22:30. Suzie Kass placed 13th in the JVII race and medalled, along with Stephanie Byrd.”
The Wildcats competed again today (Saturday, October 11) at Cherokee Boulevard in Knoxville. The girls ran at 9 a.m. and the boys at 9:40.
Note: This is an edited version of notes submitted by Etheridge after last weekend’s meet. Oak Ridge Today will provide information on today’s meet (the October 11 meet) as it becomes available.