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Bearcats’ Harrington scorches course at Randy Smith Classic

TANNER COOK • Oct 4, 2019 at 12:42 AM

BRISTOL, Va. — Cross country races have been run on the historic Sugar Hollow Park 3-mile course for 46 years, and there have been thousands of runners who have tackled the same arduous hills over and over again.

On Thursday afternoon — in an unseasonably warm day with temperatures in the low 90s — Virginia High senior Kelsey Harrington made a little bit of history en route to her dominating win at the 13th Randy Smith Classic.

Harrington blazed the course in 17:43.6 — her fourth consecutive win of the season — and cracked the top 10 list for best marks on the hilly course. Her time also beat the previous meet record of 18:18 by Breanna Roy (David Crockett) in 2014.

Her first mile was 5:25, but the heat and the hills got to her over halfway into the race.

Maria Large’s (Virginia High) course record set in 1980 of 16:58 lives to see another day, but that is the mark Harrington will be aiming for later in the season.

“Today was a good start in getting to the course record,” Harrington said. “It was pretty hot today and hopefully the next time I run this course, it’ll be 20 degrees cooler and I’ll have a better shot at the record.”

Harrington is building on a track season that saw her break two of Large’s longstanding track records and win two Class 2 state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

The Sullivan East Lady Patriots claimed the team title with 66 points, beating rival Tennessee High, which finished runner-up with 81.

The Lady Vikings were led by freshman standout Zoe Arrington finishing runner-up in 19:05.3, which also cracks the top 50 all-time on the course.

Sullivan East has been led all season by sophomore Mandy Lowery, who has had a strong season so far and continued it with a fifth-place finish in 20:49.

“We ran really bad at Bristol Cross on Saturday, so this is a good bounce-back for the girls,” East coach Ryan Williamson said. “Running this course is always a mental boost. Our region is always at Boone and that’s a really hilly course, so running on this course gives us a little bit more toughness and experience. … I’ve really been challenging (Mandy) to run consistently and she’s been doing that. The goal for her is move forward and progress, not to fall back and settle.”

Other area notables in the top 15 included Lebanon’s Jessey Ball (third, 20:10.8), John Battle’s Jules Lemmon (11th in 22:36.3) and Sullivan East’s Jayla Vance (14th in 22:55.7).


The boys race was far more interesting on the individual side as defending Class 1 state champion Jordan Keith (Holston) sprinted away from Union’s Nathaniel Hersel in the final stages to win in 16:24.3.

“I ran OK today. It’s been rough training this season where the heat has been really bad,” Keith said. “I think it was a good time for this part of the year. … I ran here quite a bit last year and I think this corse really prepares you for the tough races down the road. I actually like running here.”

Hersel did not have to worry, though, as his Bears teammates ran strong behind him with Tanner Cusano in third (16:40.3), Asher Whitt in sixth (17:23.7), Jacob Mullins in seventh (17:39.5) and Benjamin Hersel in 10th (17:53.1).

The Bears easily cruised to the team title with 27 points, beating out Auburn with 52.

“We’ve got a good bunch of hardworking kids,” Union coach Mark Castle said. “They come to practice every day and work hard. They just try to get better every week.”

The motivation is there for Union, having run to a disappointing sixth place at the Class 2 state meet last year. The Bears were predicted to finish inside the top three, but conditions and a few things happened along the way up to Great Meadow that may have affected their performance.

“We had a rough trip last year. Our bus broke down on the way up there and we had to sit there for six hours. We got up there and there were bad conditions, too. These kids have really locked in this year with the mentality of no excuses.”

Other notable locals in the top 15 included Sullivan Central’s Mason Sanders (ninth in 17:42.4), Sullivan East’s Drew Ledford (11th in 17:53.3) and John Battle’s Andrew Smith (15th in 18:03.0).