Competing in the recent John Freeman Invitational at Webb School, the Warren County boys cross country team took top honors over seven other regional high schools with the lowest combined score of 45 points.
Community High School and Cascade High School took second and third place with 55 and 65 points, respectively.
Staying in front and placing in the top 15 to earn points were Christian Locke, 8th place, 19:17.0, Jake Toney, 9th place, 19:17.6, Paxton Smith, 11th, 19:28.0 and Dillon Earls, 14th, 19:49.4.
Cross country is both an individual sport and a team sport. Runners compete against themselves trying to get better times and they also compete as one entity for a combined score using the top 15 finishers.
A meet director will put together all the times afterwards. There is both instant feedback – a runner comes in first, second, third, etc., and then a wait until the director puts together the team points. It can take several days for a team score to be determined.
According to Warren County cross country coach Carol Nelson, the team works on a strategy of staying together and in front to improve its odds.
“This strategy improves our overall team score because there are fewer runners from other teams placing in between our Warren County runners,” Nelson said. “In cross country, every place counts. My boys understand that, so they work hard to stay in a pack toward the front of the race.”
The Pioneer team has a good base of freshmen runners this year so the future looks bright.
“We have a strong group of freshmen boys this year. In several races, freshman Jake Toney has been able to hang with our lead varsity runner, Christian Locke,” Nelson added.
The Lady Pioneer team did not compete in the tournament, mainly due to scheduling conflicts. Coach Nelson is working to build more female runners in the future thanks to a new middle school cross country team coached by Patty Kelly. Currently, Lady Pioneers Kelsey Gross and Olinada Vazquez perform consistently well for the school.
“Hopefully, in a few years, that team will provide a feeder program for our high school team. Until then, I plan to work with my female athletes individually,” Nelson said.
Warren County High School cross country runs again Saturday, Oct. 1 at Cookeville High School with the time TBA.