Freshman Alyssa Andrea made a splash on the state stage in her first appearance at the TSSAA State Cross Country Championships over the weekend at Percy Warner Park’s Steeplechase Course in Nashville.
The Fairview youngster clinched the school’s second individual championship on the girls’ side by winning the Division I Small Schools title. Andrea finished in 20 minutes, 26.71 seconds to claim Williamson County’s only individual title.
“I didn’t believe it at first, I though, ‘Did I just do that?’” Andrea said after crossing the finish line. “This means so much.”
Andrea battled for the lead through the first mile before gaining some separation and maintaining it the rest of the way for the Fairview win. Senior Emma Bradford of Sequatchie County was second in 20:39.54, while sophomore Lily Stinnett of Gatlinburg-Pittman (20:41.59) was third. Andrea was one of six freshmen to finish in the top 10.
She was also the only WillCo representative in the field of 170 runners in the small schools race.
“I really can’t wait for next year, because I know we will have more girls coming up,” Andrea said. “I hope we can get a team score because that hasn’t been done in quite a while for our school.”
Kori Bledsoe was the last girls’ champion from Fairview back in 2001. She also finished third in 2002.
In other Division I competition, the county had a runner-up finish from Page junior Leigh Walters in the Large Schools race. Walters, who closed in third in 2018, out-kicked last year’s champion Jenna Hutchins of Science Hill, who took a tumble in the final strides, to finish second in 17:51.76. Walters shaved more than 34 seconds off her 2018 time despite running on a somewhat muddy course.
“It wasn’t too bad overall, but obviously this course is just more challenging overall with some hills,” said Walters, who posted a 17:34.70 PR earlier this season. “It was just fun to be out there against this great competition.
“I just tried to focus on sprinting my all on that last bit and go as fast as I could. I’m really excited to get second place.”
Senior Sasha Neglia of Dobyns Bennett cruised to the title in 17:22.90 one year removed from crossing the finish line first but getting disqualified for a briefly running off course in 2018. Dobyns Bennett also claimed the team crown, while Brentwood was runner-up.
Junior Kaitlyn Vanderkolk was the first Lady Bruin finisher (19:08.86) and placed 12th. Freshman Brooke Tyll was 16th (19:19.41) and junior Eden Mittelsdorf (19:52.48) was 27th, followed closely by sophomore Cari Pautienus (29th in 19:58.82). Brentwood, which was third overall in the team standings last year, raced an average of 19:46.94 for second with the top five Lady Bruins all finishing in the top 40.
Brentwood coach Robert Pautienus called 2019 a bit of rebuilding year for the Lady Bruins, but was quick to point out how his team quickly regrouped and trained hard entering the season.
“Like anything, when you train for months and months and it comes down to one day, everyone has got to perform on that day,” Pautienus said. “I was just really pleased. They all ran well. They were all focused. I was just pleased with all of their efforts.”
The Independence girls added a fifth place finish in the large schools competition, led by sophomore Julia Halterman (19:48.55) who was 25th overall, and freshman Emma Pearson (30th overall in 19:59.51).
Ravenwood senior Msgana Araya was 13th (19:09.39), out-kicking Tennessee freshman Zoe Arrington at the finish line. Nolensville freshman Auldyn Plant added a 19th-place finish in 19:36.79.
On the boys’ side in Division I, Brentwood took fourth, over-taking region champion Franklin, which closed sixth.
Junior Kevin Vanderkolk was the top county finisher, leading the Bruins with a 16:15.01 time good for 14th. Franklin senior Evan Guzman was just over three-tenths of a second back to also reach the podium.