By DAVID HUNTER
The 2015 Junior Lions and Lionettes cross country teams are roaring back to the state tourney after an impressive performance at the Tennessee State Middle School Qualifier on Oct. 10 in Macon County.
The Lionettes won the overall meet, while the Lions qualified for the state with a fourth place finish at the same event.
"We are pretty excited, and we are real happy about it," Lionette eighth-grader Amando Blanco said before practice earlier this week. "We have been working hard and doing real good."
Her teammate Lion seventh-grader Tyler Southworth added, "We are pretty excited."
It was another magical run by both teams, especially for a program which is only three years old. The CCJL squad has made it to state in each of those years.
The coach, a long time distance runner and former CCHS athlete, is Brian Elrod. He's a coach who teaches his young athletes the right way to compete at this level. He accomplishes this by using his experience, gained throughout his adult life, in running this style of races.
There was no cross country program when Elrod attended CCHS. A few years ago, after seeing the success of the CCHS cross country program as assistant coach to current head coach Marc Larson, Elrod wanted to start a middle school team. He wanted his teams competing for state titles, using them as a feeder program, but most importantly teaching them the correct way to train for distance running.
"They were very confident going into the race," Elrod said before practice last week. "They felt confident they were going up there to qualify for state as a team. They felt they could get one of those top five bids. The big deal was they just did not get one of the top five bids, but they went in there and won the entire region. It was a bonus. It was the first big trophy win for them."
The girls were led by Zettie Elrod (6th), Blanco (9th), Hannah Higgins (15th), Madison Gaither (18th), Lexie Deese (20th), and Lauren Knox (23rd) in taking home the region title.
While the Lions were led by Duncan Cook (8th), Southworth (10th), Collin Reed (18th), Matthew Elmy (24th), Tristan Davis (64th) and Ian Dearmond (82nd).
The local elementary school teams also qualified for state with the Lions sweeping the top five with James Huckels leading the way followed by Boone Elrod, Gunter Pitts, Nick Foster and Waylon Southworth. Jake Foster