NASHVILLE – West Tennessee may not have brought home any TSSAA cross country team or individual state championships, but those who competed and finished well were pleased with their efforts.
“It was pretty hard dealing with the cold temperatures after running in hot temperatures all season,” said University School of Jackson senior Samantha Sullivan. “You come out with your muscles a little tighter, and it makes that first mile almost unbearable.
“But you start to loosen up again and get used to running in the environment, and the second mile goes by a little quicker. Then the third mile flies by because you’re trying to catch people before the end.”
Sullivan finished eighth in the Division II-A girls’ race with a time of 21:18, but she passed three girls to land in the top 10 just before the finish line.
“I had to mentally battle, especially early on, and that makes running a lot more difficult,” Sullivan said. “Then we hit that last stretch, and you’re almost done, so you just try to end as strong as you can.”
Sullivan finished just ahead of teammates Kayla Puzdrakiewicz (10th place in 21:27) and Gabbie Stevens (11th place in 21:30).
Sam Wehner, a junior at South Gibson, led West Tennessee in the Class A-AA boys’ race with a seventh-place finish in a time of 17:03.
“In a way, running when it’s cold is easier because it’s not as hot, but it was cold enough today to make you not want to give it your all,” Wehner said. “That’s when you’ve just got to prove to yourself you’ve got guts and keep kicking.
“I’m proud of myself for doing that today.”
Crockett County runner Jerry Rojas also finished in the top 10 at No. 8 with a time of 17:09.
Trinity Christian Academy sophomore Brynne Lytle recorded her third all-state finish as she came in sixth in the Class A-AA girls’ race with a time of 20:15.
“Running up here gets a little easier each year, but being so cold made things different this time,” said Lytle, who also played soccer this season and is preparing to start basketball. “But doing all this makes me that much more ready for basketball. I’ll be a lot more ready to do those sprints in practice.”
Huntingdon’s Lydia Hayes finished ninth with a time of 20:19.
USJ’s boys’ team finished fifth as a team, but Jack Goodwin and Sam Darnall finished third and fourth, respectively, to lead the Bruins.
The two have traded winning races in recent weeks, but they said running together has made them both better.
“We push each other to be better at this, and I think that’s a reason why we ran so fast today,” said Goodwin, whose time was 16:54. “He’s made me better, and I try to do the same for him, too.”
Darnall led the USJ team that finished as a state runner-up last year, and he said other than the weather things weren’t much different from last year.
“The cold temperatures after running in 80- and 70-degree weather for the entire season leading up to the last couple of days was almost a shock,” Darnall said. “But we just had to push through that and try to get the rest of the team to push as well.”
Darnall is a senior and ran the state race in 16:59.
Brandon Shields, 425-9751
Top local team finishers
• USJ boys finished fifth in Division II-A.
• USJ girls finished third in Division II-A.
• Crockett County boys finished fifth in Class A-AA.
• Madison girls finished seventh in Class A-AA.