Special to The Mountain Advocate
The Knox Central men’s cross country team returned to the KHSAA state meet on Saturday, November 7th. It has been five years (2010) since a men’s team from KC has qualified for the state meet. The men finished 13th out of 27 teams in class AA competition, placing them squarely ahead of the middle of the pack of 237 runners.
The Panther’s top 5 runners (those who score) tallied an average time of 17:59 for the five kilometer course. This accomplishment places the 2015 team as the best KC has had in 17 years, only a few seconds behind the average time of the 1998 team, which placed fifth overall at state. This team’s accomplishments also place it in the top five best teams ever at Central.
“The 13th place finish is a bit deceiving,” mentioned head coach Wesley Rieth. “It’s an incredible accomplishment for us, and an average time like that would have placed this team in the top five at state in many other years of competition. This year happened to be a particularly competitive one on the state level.”
Senior captain Mitchell Trent led the Panthers on the cool, but sunny November afternoon, placing 44th in a time of 17:26. Zak Willis, Tyler Rice, Caleb Teague, and Jacob Logan rounded out the top five for the Panthers.
Jared Hurst, an eighth grader, followed closely behind the top five in a time of 18:48. “I know our strength as a team lies in our ability to finish closely together,” stated Hurst, who is ranked as the eighth fastest eighth grader in the state. “I just kept my eyes up and did my best to stay with Caleb and Jacob.” Junior Jared Saylor rounded out the varsity squad, finishing close behind Hurst.
To give perspective to the drastic improvement the team has made in one year, consider this: last year, the Panther’s
fastest runner averaged finishing times in the 18:40s. Now, their entire varsity squad (seven runners) are consistently ahead of that time.
“It’s amazing how quickly our perceptions change,” said teammate Jared Saylor. “When I started running three years ago, I thought our fastest runner was amazing, and he only ran 19s. We are entirely different people now.”
The Panthers will not have much time to revel in their successes this season, though. Rieth states that an off-season workout plan is essential to success in the quickly approaching track season. “We’ll keep everyone busy through the winter,” he quipped. “Some rest is important, but these boys form a good portion of our track & field team in the spring, so we want to keep them building on their progress from the fall.”
Three athletes from this fall’s team, Mitchell Trent, Tyler Rice, and Zak Willis, qualified for a national level competition to be held on November 21st. They will compete on that date at Masterson Station Park in Lexington, KY, against the best from Kentucky and several other states.