KNOXVILLE—It wasn’t the result that Jordan Van Druff wanted.
He trained diligently at the beginning of the season for this state cross country meet, hoping to finish first. Van Druff also put in extra miles, running up to 25 to 30 miles per week at his peak.
On Saturday, the eighth-grader at Jefferson Middle School led all runners near the one-mile mark in a two-mile boys race during the Tennessee Middle School State Cross Country Championships at Victor Ashe Park in Knoxville. But then, one by one, three runners passed him.
“I didn’t get what I wanted,” said Van Druff, who was undefeated in all of Jefferson’s regular season races during his three-year middle school career. “I wanted to finish first.”
Still, it was an improvement from his fifth-place finish last year and a sixth-place finish the year before, said his mother, Reneé Van Druff.
Van Druff, who finished with a two-mile time of 11:42.55, was one of two Oak Ridge runners who made All State during the state cross country championships on Saturday. The other was Faith McGhee, a fourth-grade student at Woodland Elementary School. She finished eighth in the one-mile girls race during the Tennessee Elementary School State Cross Country Championships. McGhee had a time of 6:19.50.
It was the first year McGhee has run cross country—although she has competed in track—and she qualified for state. So did another first-time championship competitor, Darbey Marczak, who is also a fourth-grade student at Woodland.
Both set personal records a few weeks ago during regional competitions, and McGhee was the top fourth-grade runner up through the regionals, said coach Farah McGhee, Faith’s mother.
“They’re going to do very well next year,” Farah McGhee said.
Coach Sam Roberts, who is an assistant cross country and track coach at Oak Ridge High School, said Van Druff’s championship competitors were relentless.
He said a slower starting pace for Van Druff, who finished first at regionals and jumped out to an early lead Saturday, might have allowed the standout runner to finish at a faster pace.
“He’s not used to keeping that intensity because he’s not had to this year,” Roberts said. “He’s won every race by 100 yards or more.”
It wasn’t a poor race, Roberts said, but the top three finishers ran extremely well.
It wasn’t actually Van Druff’s best time at Victor Ashe Park. Renee Van Druff said her son previously ran the course in 11:17, which was briefly a course record. Repeating that time would have put him in first on Saturday.
Van Druff, who said he had to briefly slow down for an infant on the spectator-lined course, will run for Oak Ridge High School next year.
The top three finishers in the middle school varsity boys championships were Davis Bove (running individually) with a time of 11:22.72, Silas Winders of Henry County Middle School at 11:27.47, and Jeb Jones of University School, who finished at 11:37.01.
Dalton Morgan, an eighth-grade student at JMS, finished 153rd with a time of 13:35.61.
In the middle school girls race, Josie Fellers, a Robertsville Middle School seventh-grade, finished 31st. She had a time of 13:36.21.
Two JMS seventh-graders also competed. Muskaan Vohra finished 54th at 14:03.20, and Zoe Marczak came in 201st, with a time of 15:57.34.
“It was an extremely tight field with only about 30 seconds separating 6th place from 31st place in the girls race,” said Shellie Fellers, Josie Fellers’ mother.
Roberts said Fall Break might have hurt the girls’ performance by affecting their normal training routine.
The top three runners in the middle school varsity girls division were Sasha Neglia of John Sevier (12:15.78), Niki Narayani of Webb (12:21.13), and Harper Russell, who was not attached to a team (12:33.15).
Darbey Marczak finished 65th in the elementary school varsity girls division, with a time of 7:13.73.
About 1,400 runners from six regions across the state competed in the championship races on Saturday, and there were 150 teams. The Oak Ridge competitors were “unattached,” meaning they were not designated to a particular school.
Roberts said his goal is to get a full team competing.
Fellers called Saturday’s races, a new experience for all the Oak Ridge runners except Van Druff, a great accomplishment.
See the middle school varsity boys results here.
See the elementary school varsity girls results here.
See the middle school varsity girls results here.
See all meet results here: http://www.tennesseerunner.com
See a preview story of Saturday’s races here.
More information is available at the website for Knoxville Youth Athletics.
Here are more photos: