By TONY STINNETT
CHATTANOOGA - Cross-country was not an option for student-athletes at Cannon County two years ago.
One year after starting the program in 2011, Cannon County’s boys team has qualified for the TSSAA Boys Class A/AA State Tournament at Percy Warner Steeplechase Cross-Country Course in Nashville.
The Lions finished second at the Region 4-A/AA meet at the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga. By finishing as region runners-up, the Lions entire team qualified. Central Magnet won the championship with 19 points. Cannon County was second with 61 points and Signal Mountain was a distant third with 103 points.
The top three teams and top 10 individuals advance to the state meet.
“This is a very tough region for cross country,” Cannon County Head Cross-Country Coach Marc Larson said. “The second-place regional plaque the boys won represents a lot of miles, sweat and pain that the entire Cannon County team has experienced throughout the year. I am very proud of the boys, girls varsity and junior varsity.”
Freshman Elva Magana also will represent Cannon County at the state championship. Magana finished eighth overall and qualified for the TSSAA Girls Class A/AA State Tournament as an individual.
The Lionettes finished fourth with 106 points, one spot from reaching the state tournament. Central (45), Signal Mountain (58) and Notre Dame (64) were the top three teams.
Jordan Turney and Marshall McReynolds led the Lions with Top 5 finishes. Both earned individual medals. Turney turned in a time of 18:24 on the 5,000-meter course. McReynolds was fifth with an 18:47. Sophomore Jake Burdick narrowly missed a Top 10 finish. Burdick was 11th with a 19:42.
Devin Burgess earned a Top 20 finish. He was 14th overall with a time of 20:09. Clay Luker finished 30th with a 21:18 and earned points for the Lions. The top five finishers on each team count toward the team score. T.J. Paul (31, 21:26) and Will Bailey (35, 21:47) also competed at the regional meet and factored into the team success.
Magana continued her smashing freshman season. She finishe eighth with a time of 23:36 to reach the state tournament.
The Lionettes narrowly missed an opportunity to advance. Macy Clements finished 13th with a 23:50 to provide the squad with two Top 20 finishes. Hannah Faulkner was 25th with a 25:03, followed by Madison Walkup (28, 26:14), Sara Hickman (32, 26:28), Katie Hickman (36, 27:17) and Jessica Elmy (41, 28:39).
Cannon County was hampered by not having Faulkner until the last two weeks. Faulkner, who advanced to the state tournament as a freshman last season, was injured most of the season and was not able to begin competition until the last two weeks.
Magana will compete in the state tournament at 2:30 p.m., followed by the boys team at 3:15 p.m.