Tuesday, August 31, 2021

WC Cross Country at the Voyles Classic

Junior Evan Ferris leads freshman
Gabriel Wiles in dynamic stretching
When our runners began arriving at The Hermitage Voyles Classic at 6:30am, the air was already thick with humidity and heat, yet the sun was smiling on White County Cross Country team. As our squad gathered under the tent for a quick fill of bananas, clementines, and water, we discussed our priorities for the first 5k meet of the season: testing our bodies, getting rookies adjusted to the race format, and enjoying our Warrior teammates. Three of our veterans runners, Dean Limper, Abigail Welch, & Evan Ferris lead dynamic stretching and a race-course walkthrough. Although a very hilly course with some tight bottlenecking turns, we were grateful that The Hermitage course was absent of muddy bog spots, deep holes, or other trip/slip hazards. Before the start the Warriors took a moment to remember the race's namesake, Markie Voyles, a former White County runner who passed away tragically in 2008 from a car accident. 

Senior Abigail Welch gives starting
line encouragement to freshman
Gabriel Wiles, senior Dean Limper,
& junior Evan Ferris
For this first race, both the men's and women's teams chose to line up on an outside starting block to avoid the mass of runners in the middle. With about 300 runners in both the men's & women's varsity heats, we knew there would be a lot of elbows and shoe spikes in the middle of the mob at the start as runners merge from a 200ft wide starting line to a 15ft wide running lane within a short 300ft distance.  The outer block served us well as all eight of our runners got off to a great safe start choosing their own determined paces rather than the mob starting sprint that causes many athletes to burn out early well before the 5k race ending. 

The men's heat started first at 8am, with our Warriors testing their bodies in different ways. The first mile marker, a hairpin turn, saw junior Evan Ferris running a quick pace in the low 6-minute range in the lead pack of the race. As we set a priority of testing and listening to our bodies early in the season, Evan made a wise move to head to the relief tent in the second mile as breathing challenges would make finishing this race difficult. We look forward to seeing some great times in future races from this 11th grader as he pushes hard through the season.  Next around the 1st mile marker was senior Dean Limper, keeping his form very compact and controlled in the 7-minute per mile average pace range. Dean maintained smart paces and controlled passes throughout the race. He would finish this race with a very respectable 25:01 total time for a strong 8:04 per mile average pace. Freshman Gabriel Wiles was third around the hairpin turn early in the race setting a negative split strategy, where the runner begins at a slower pace and gradually increases it through the race to save just enough energy for passing flagging runners in an extended sprint at the end. While he admitted that the last uphill to the finisher's chute was a brutal sprint, Wiles would finish strong for a new 5k personal record and a team leading 21:51 time for a 7:03 average pace per mile. Wiles crossed the line 293rd out of 538 male finishers.

Junior Evan Ferris

Senior Dean Limper

Freshman Gabriel Wiles

As the women's heat lined up in an outer block, senior Abigail Welch led the ladies on a warm-up sprint from the starting line followed by a circling up for prayer before the starting pistol. You could see the bonds of camaraderie growing for the ladies as they approached the starting block with smiles on their faces. Welch lined up first in the small 4ft wide starting block with returning runner McKenzie Tuck and rookie Luci McKee in the second positions. Freshmen Breanna Powell and Poppy Shank took the third positions behind Tuck & Mckee. 

The ladies get ready for the starting line: sophomore
McKenzie Tuck, senior Abigail Welch, freshman
Breanna Powell, freshman Poppy Shank, and
freshman Luci McKee.
(Photo Credit: Crissy Shank)
The White County runners again wisely avoided the massive mob sprint, elbows, and spikes by sticking to the outside in the outset. Welch kept a very measured 9 minute flat pace in the first portion, displaying her practiced and compact racing form early in the season. Following shortly behind was McKee, occupying the outer safe lane in a group of Stewart's Creek & Riverdale runners. Just seconds after, Tuck was pacing and pushing along close behind Shank in the first mile giving the rookie a boost in the early part of the race.  Powell stayed steady about 30 seconds later looking very composed and confident as well.  The women's race finished with all five lady Warriors crossing the finish line with strong times, well underneath the 37:30 minute course cut-off for women's varsity.  Senior Abigail Welch took the lead in 28:12 with a 9:06 pace. Freshman Luci McKee finished firm at 31:54 with average pacing of 10:17 per mile. Sophomore McKenzie Tuck crossed the line in 32:48 for a 10:35 pace. Freshman Breanna Powell picked up her pace to finish in 33:24 in a 10:46 average per mile. Freshman Poppy Shank held her head high with a solid 33:58 at a 10:57 per mile pace.  Welch finished 285th out of 424. 
Senior Abigail Welch

Freshman Luci McKee

Freshman Poppy Shank followed
by Sophomore McKenzie Tuck

Freshman Breanna Powell

After the race, which saw over 1,000 runners begin, the Warrior Cross Country team gathered together for a post race chat at their tent while stretching legs and eating bananas to reduce inflammation and replenish muscle glycogen stores for faster recovery. This proud Warrior running squad was smiling and already making preparations for the upcoming and challenging meet in Cookeville on Thursday. Join the White County Cross Country team as ladies starting off at 5pm and the men at 5:30pm on September 2nd. 

There were about 1000 runners in this race!

To keep up with team rosters, results, and schedules, check out the White County Warriors Cross Country Team here: https://tn.milesplit.com/teams/7610-white-co-high-school#.YS5Z745KiUk

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