By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
Three current Cannon County Cross Country runners have reached the state tournament in each of the last three years but after a series of near misses the entire team will enjoy the state tournament experience this year.
Cannon County's girls finished third overall at the Region 4-A/AA Tournament to earn one of three berths into the TSSAA Class A/AA State Tournament Saturday at Steeplechase in Nashville.
It was a satisfying experience after the team had fallen just short of advancing in each of the previous two seasons.
Senior Hannah Faulkner was the first Lionette to reach the state tournament when she accomplished the feat in the first year of the program's existence in 2011.
Elva Magana followed as an individual in 2012 and returned along with freshman Hannah Whited in 2013.
"It is always great when you have players at the state tournament," Cannon County Head Coach Marc Larson said. "The goal for this group of young ladies was to advance to state as a team. We knew we had some individuals capable of advancing but the young ladies worked hard to make sure they went as a team. They accomplished that goal."
Signal Mountain won the event with 29 points, followed by Central Magnet with 49. Cannon County was third with 84. The top three finishers advance to state.
Hannah Whited continued to dominate cross-country circles with another strong effort. Whited finished third overall out of 90 runners with a time of 20:22.22 in the 5,000-meter run.
Erin McReynolds has enjoyed a strong season and turned in a Top 10 finish, crossing the finish line in 10th place with a time of 21:02.84.
Magana was 22nd with a 23:14.31 and Faulkner was nipping at her heels with a 23:16.65, good enough for 23rd as the Lionettes had four runners in the Top 25.
"We have been pretty consistent most of the season," Larson said. "In most tournaments we have had finishers in the top third of the race and that's key, especially in our region."
Kristen Hale narrowly missed placing five in the Top 25. Hale was 26th with a time of 24:35.46. Teammate Sarah Hickman has been consistent all season and turned in another solid showing with a 29th-place finish with a time of 25:45.34. Alayna Reed was 40th with a time of 27:07.