By DAVID HUNTER
Cannon County Middle Grade's cross country program, led by head coach Brian Elrod, has enjoyed a great deal of success during its short history.
I had never seen them in action until last week as I made the short drive from my apartment in Murfreesboro to the rural Rutherford County town of Milton for an invitational meet. I saw first-hand why these runners are really good.
The short 1.6-mile course was challenging as it had a little bit of everything for these runners, including rolling hills, hay fields, gravel trails, jumping in creeks and muddy terrain. Murfreesboro Oakland Middle, which hosted the race called it a true cross-country course since it was in the middle of an open field.
Besides the tough course, the competition on September 10 was just as tough as CCMG faced not only district rivals, but also the more populated Rutherford County middle schools. In the meantime, both the Lions and Lionettes were on a roll after dominating the overall wins in both varsity divisions at the meet in Macon County on September 6.
The Lionettes did not win individual overall at that meet, but they swept the top six spots in the team competition for a perfect score in cross country.
"It felt amazing," Eighth grader Ade Harwood said after the Milton Invitational. "Honestly, I was blown away and I was so proud of our whole team. We did amazing."
The Lions did pretty good as well at the same meet finishing with three runners in the top 10 to take the boys' overall.
Fast forward to Milton, the runners enjoyed an important advantage during the invitational. Most of the season, the races were run in the late afternoon in almost 100-degree heat. This time they got a break as the varsity competed in the early morning when temperatures were cooler, more comfortable and ideal for running.
"I think our team's performance was really, really good," Lionette captain Zettie Elrod said. "We met our goals and it was a lot easier running in this cool weather than in the hot."
More Cannon County supporters were able to make the short trip and the runners said it made a difference.
"It helps, because they are rooting for you," Eighth grader Jonathan Fann said. "No matter what you do they are going to love you."