Siegel's Gardner looks to defend cross country state title today

Siegel's Gardner looks to defend cross country state title today

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Siegel's Gardner looks to defend cross country state title today

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MURFREESBORO

Nicole Gardner doesn’t feel any pressure of being the defending state champion in the TSSAA Class AAA girls cross country state meet.

Gardner, a Siegel junior, enters today’s championship as one of the favorites to win the AAA race.

However, she admits she likely isn’t the favorite. Cane Ridge’s Bailee Dean may fill that role.

“I think I’m seeded fourth,” Gardner said. “All I can do is my best. We’ll see what happens.”

The Class AAA girls race is the first of eight scheduled to be held today at the Steeplechase Course at Percy Warner Park in Nashville. The Class AAA girls race is at 10 a.m. with the boys racing at 10:45 a.m.

Gardner won the Region 4-AAA meet at Sharp Springs Natural Area Park in 17:59.26.

Gardner said she’s heard that Dean thinks she will have to run the Steeplechase course under 18 minutes to win it.

“But I really don’t know what it’s going to take to win it,” Gardner said. “I’m just going to try and hang in there.”

She leads Siegel’s team, which is one of three girls teams competing in the Class AAA meet from Rutherford County. Central Magnet is competing in the Class A/AA girls state meet along with a pair of Cannon County runners.

On the boys side, Oakland, Riverdale and Siegel all qualified for the Class AAA meet along with a runner from Blackman, La Vergne and Stewarts Creek. Central Magnet’s boys along with two Cannon County boys runners also qualified for the A/AA race.

Central Magnet’s Claudia Smith is a favorite to win the Class A/AA girls race. Central Magnet’s Andre Hillsman is one of the favorites to win the boys race.

Gardner’s winning time of 18:44.13 last season helped Siegel finish second in the Class AAA girls meet.

Gardner is very familiar with the Steeplechase course from running it at state and other meets and in practice.

“The first mile is very fast,” Gardner said. “I want to stay with the lead pack. The last mile is pretty fast too. It’s a nice downhill stretch to the finish line with the last 100 meters uphill.”

However, those last 100 meters are often grueling on runners as they complete the 5K race.

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