KNOXVILLE—Oak Ridge senior Jake Etheridge and the boys’ cross country team finished first in the Region 2-AAA meet in Knoxville on Thursday, and they will race in the state meet next Saturday.
It’s the third regional championship in a row for the boys’ team. It’s the second year in a row for Oak Ridge to have the top male racer. Gashaw Duhamel, who ran for Oak Ridge as a senior last year, was the top runner last year.
The boys’ cross country team finished as state runner-up in 2015. Brentwood, a Nashville area school, was state champion with two of the three top runners (one a sophomore and one a junior), and that team is considered a favorite again this year. Other top teams this year include Daniel Boone of upper East Tennessee, which has been a strong team, and Wilson Central of Nashville.
Etheridge led the entire 5,000-meter, or 5k, run during the Region 2-AAA meet at Victor Ashe Park in Knoxville on Thursday.
“I got out hard, and I kept going,” said Etheridge, who finished with a time of 16:27.87. That was about 13 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Seth Bowden of Maryville High School.
Etheridge said he set a good pace—starting a little faster than he intended—and he was worried about other fast runners.
“I just held on,” Etheridge said.
The Wildcats had three more runners in the top 10: Dalton Morgan in fourth (16:55.42), Daeton Byars in eighth (17:06.34), and Reid Dukes in 10th (17:13.79).
“Our top four were spectacular,” Oak Ridge Allen Etheridge said.
“He (Jake Etheridge) told me he wanted to put it away early,” said Allen Etheridge, Jake’s father.
Jake Etheridge finished seventh last year with a time of 16:50.34.
Morgan, a sophomore, had a great run on Thursday, and Byars had “far and away his best race,” Allen Etheridge said. It was a personal record for Byars on the hardest course.
“That’s a great result,” Allen Etheridge said.
And Dukes, a junior who finished in the top 10 in the cross country race, is more of a track athlete, Etheridge said.
It will be the first trip to state for Byars and several of the other runners, including Dukes, Morgan, and Genevieve Schwartz, who finished 10th in the girls race and will also go to state.
“I planned on going out a little slower than I normally do and build the pace every mile,” Byars said of his eighth-place run at the Region 2 meet on Thursday. The strategy worked, he said.
Dukes said he and Byars, who is also a junior, need to beat Daniel Boone’s number two and three runners at state.
“If we beat them, we have a pretty good shot at being on the podium,” Dukes said.
He shared his strategy at Thursday’s meet also.
“This week, I told myself I want to get 10th, and I just went out and got it,” Dukes said.
Morgan, whose nickname is “Little Country,” said he wanted to stick with the third-place runner on Thursday and run the race off of him.
“It worked pretty well,” Morgan said.
Placing 15th was senior Will Jeter of Oak Ridge (17:36.71). That was a solid race for Jeter, who was sick during the regional meet last year, Allen Etheridge said.
Senior Christian Borden was 21st with a time of 17:47.64, and junior Jose Villegas was 29th at 18:15.33.
Allen Etheridge said the boys want more next week, and Villegas will have to have a good week.
Jake Etheridge said a few runners “stepped up” Thursday, and a few others are “getting back” after setbacks.
“We just have to trust our training, and keep doing what we’re doing,” Jake Etheridge said.
Etheridge and Villegas both ran in the state meet last year. There were five other runners last year who were seniors and have since graduated.
Here are the results for the top 14 runners during the Region 2-AAA meet on Thursday:
- 1st: Jacob Etheridge, Oak Ridge—16:27.87
- 2nd: Seth Bowden, Maryville—16:40.90
- 3rd: Gavin Cooper, Campbell County—16:50.90
- 4th: Dalton Morgan, Oak Ridge—16:55.42
- 5th: Nathan McFall, Farragut—16:57.44
- 6th: Kenton Bachmann, Hardin Valley—17:05.35
- 7th: Nathaniel Blalock, Bearden—17:05.77
- 8th: Daeton Byars, Oak Ridge—17:06.34
- 9th: Gavin Jones, Maryville—17:10.21
- 10th: Reid Dukes, Oak Ridge—17:13.79
- 11th: Taylor Drake, Maryville—17:15.59
- 12th: Aiden Oakley, Hardin Valley—17:18.66
- 13th: Tanner Witsell, Hardin Valley—17:21.75
- 14th: Brennan Humphreys, Hardin Valley—17:33.55
Top 10 individual runners who are not on a qualifying team also advance to the state meet. In this case, that applies to Gavin Cooper of Campbell County, Nathan McFall of Farragut, and Nathaniel Blalock of Bearden.
The top three teams in the region advance to the state meet. Oak Ridge finished first with 34 points, Maryville was second with 54, and Hardin Valley was third with 66. (In cross country, a lower score is better.)
Farragut just missed the cutoff, finishing fourth. Anderson County was sixth, and Clinton was 13th.
You can see the complete results for Thursday’s boys’ race here.
Next Saturday’s race is at Percy Warner Park Steeplechase Course in Nashville.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See more photos from the Thursday meet here.
See a story on the girls’ race here. The Oak Ridge girls finished fourth in the region and won’t go to state, but junior Genevieve Schwartz finished in the top 10 and will compete at state next week.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2016 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.