Nicol Gardner (Photo submitted)
Riverdale and Siegel high schools head to a familiar race course Saturday for the Tennessee Classic in Nashville.
Although the Percy Warner Park Steeplechase course will be a challenge for both teams, it will give them a chance to become familiar with it before the championships in November.
“The Tennessee Classic is used as a tune-up for the state championship,” Riverdale High School head coach Stephen Williams said. “We have many first year runners who need the experience on this course. This race also has numerous strong programs entered, so this experience will benefit the entire team.”
Siegel High School head coach Phil Young added, “This race is important to provide confidence for the varsity runners to prepare for the state meet. Our goal is to always run faster than the last time they ran this course, of course weather permitting.”
The Siegel girls team proved last season that could master the five-kilometer course.
During the 2012 TSSAA State Championships, Nicole Gardner won the state title with an impressive time of 18 minutes, 44.13 seconds. The performance helped the Lady Stars finish runner-up in the overall standings.
Another Lady Star to watch will be senior Kiera Weems, who finished 10th at the last meet in Alabama a couple of weeks ago.
A couple of male runners to watch for this weekend are senior Drake Uselton and junior Spencer Pennington, both of who go to Siegel.
For Riverdale, this season has been a mix of eager youngsters and tested competitors, with senior Brandon Harvey leading the way with two first and one runner-up finishes in his three races.
Not to be out done, the Lady Warriors have already made a name for themselves this season.
Freshman Emma McClellan finished third in August during her first race, and she took home second place a couple of weeks ago at the Warrior Invitational. Her sister, sophomore Maddy McClellan, has three Top 10 finishes of her own, and fellow freshman Anna Kate Ferrell is coming off a season-best 10th place finish at the Warrior Invitational.
As for the upcoming race, there is a reason why this tough, challenging path will host the state meet in a couple of months – it tests even the most seasoned high school athletes.
“This course is difficult because the footing is uneven, and it can be very tight at times,” Young said. “The first mile is fast and the third mile for at least the first 1,000 meters is uphill. If you go out too fast, you will definitely struggle after mile two."
Williams added, “The course itself is deceptively challenging. The changes in terrain, along with a few challenging inclines, make this an under-rated course in difficulty.”
Correction: In the original version of this article, the name Anna Kate Chance is incorrect. The freshman runner who finished with a 10th place finish at the Warrior Invitational is Anna Kate Ferrell. The Post apologizes for this error.