The LCHS cross country team completed its final two meets of the 2019 regular season when they competed in the RMA Fall Runaway and the Pickens Invitational in preparation for the upcoming Region Championships at Unicoi State Park on Thursday, Oct. 24.
The Indians and the Lady Indians both made progress in improving times and cutting down the time in between their top runners during the teams’ final week of the regular season.
“We don’t have a runner that hasn’t improved,” said LCHS head cross country coach Nicky Jenkins. “For some, they have shaved a minute off their times. For others, as much as 2 1/2 - 3 minutes.”
The LCHS cross country team began last week by competing in the RMA Fall Runaway at Riverside Military Academy on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
The Lady Indians earned themselves a second place team finish out of the eight competing schools at the event behind the sensational running of sophomore Abbie Hilchie.
Hilchie tackled the hilly course at RMA head on and displayed a mix of endurance and speed to finish the race in third place overall out of the field of 60 runners. Hilchie completed the course with a time of 21 minutes and 50.58 seconds (21:50.58), finishing behind second place Paden Bell of Commerce and winner of the race Zoe Sanchez of Union County.
The Lady Indians also got strong performances from seniors Elvia Garcia, Emily Martinez and Tatianna Lovell at the RMA Fall Runaway. Garcia ran a solid race and finished in 14th place overall with a time of 23:35.05 to come in second place for the team at the event. Martinez followed shortly behind in 17th place with a time of 23:50.58 with Lovell right on her heels in 19th place with a time of 23:58.90.
The close bunching between the top four runners helped the team earn the second place spot in the team standings. That spacing between runners has been something the team has been working on throughout the season.
“I tell both teams all the time, it’s not the best two runners on the team that gives you a chance to place in the top three,” Jenkins said. “It’s the rest of the team that’s got to produce. We don’t really have anybody on the girls teams that is vocal but we really don’t need that. It’s rare that we ever have to question anybody on effort. In my opinion, that’s the main reason for our success.”
On the boys’ side, the Indians raced their way to a fifth place team finish out of the 11 competing schools at the meet.
Senior Jorge Romero led the charge for the Indians, finishing the race in 14th place overall with a time of 18:33.77. Senior Kyle Trammell followed Romero with a 17th place individual finish with a time of 18:44.16. Sophomore Westley Adams and senior Laken Ferrell rounded out the top four runners for the Indians with a 32nd and 41st finish respectively. Adams completed the race with a time of 19:15.20 and Ferrell finished the race with a time of 19:46.42.
With a combination was fast enough to earn the team fifth place in the RMA Fall Runaway team standings.
The makeup of his runners is something that Jenkins believes will help them when they compete in the upcoming Region Championships, as they continue to improve despite some minor injuries.
“Trammell has returned to cross country for the first time since middle school,” Jenkins said. “Romero and Trammell are almost carbon copies of each other, except for height. Their times are always within seconds of each other. Ferrell is the best looking kid in a cross country uniform at any meet we go to. I’ve heard many people at meets say ‘that kid knows where the weight room is.’ You would think that carrying a lot of muscle would slow him down in a long distance run, but he usually is able to keep his same pace all through the race. Laken is truly the leader of the team and is probably one of the most well liked kids in the whole school. Their times keep improving even though all three of them are pushing through some injuries. The biggest surprise of late has been Westley Adams. I was told that Westley was a very good runner in middle school. As of late, that’s starting to return. In the last few meets he’s gone from running around a 21-minute race to being around the 19 minute mark.”
The RMA Fall Runaway marked the first meet this season where the Lumpkin runners didn’t have to contend with extreme heat while running this season.
“The heat has been brutal, but that’s true for every sport,” Jenkins said. “I’m very proud that we started the season with 35 kids and we still have the same now. That says a lot about the character of these kids.”
The LCHS cross country team finished the 2019 regular season when they participated in the Pickens Invitational at Pickens County High School on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Running against schools from higher classifications, the Indians and Lady Indians held their own at the event and continued to make improvements on their individual times. A sign that makes Jenkins optimistic about their chances of qualifying for the State Meet at the Region Championships.
“The competition was very tough with the majority of the field coming from larger classifications,” Jenkins said. “We set a lot of personal bests.”
Despite his optimism, Jenkins is realistic when it comes to what needs to be done in order to reach the State Meet.
“Qualifying for state will not be a cake walk,” Jenkins said. “We have several powerhouse teams in our region that will be top 10 at the state competition. We will have to run really well at the region championships to qualify for state. The opportunity is there if we perform but we cannot afford to have a bad day at the region championships.”
The LCHS cross country team will have the week off from competition as they prepare to take part in the Region 7-AAA Cross Country Championships hosted at Unicoi State Park on Thursday, Oct. 24.