After successful regular seasons for both the girls and boys CJH cross country (XC) teams, the Lions traveled to Shelby Farms in Memphis for the West Tennessee Region Qualifier for State. Only the top five teams and top 25 individuals advance to the State Meet.
Against teams from 21 West Tennessee counties, the girls raced on Wednesday, Oct. 7 followed by the boys on Oct. 8. The challenging 2.06-mile course and top Memphis athletes gave the Lions their most difficult test to date.
The CJH girls’ team faced sunny skies and unseasonably warm weather for their race, but they ran together as a pack, with seven runners in the top third of the field. Miley Hartney led the way with a 32nd place finish in 14:47, followed closely by Abbi-Grace Wallace in 39th and Emma Pierce in 42nd. Alyssa Travis (52nd), Katlin Martin (53rd), Sadie Fry (54th), and Lauren Pierce (63rd) completed Camden’s top seven.
Results were so close that the team didn’t learn their fate until the following morning: Their 193 total points was good enough to earn the final qualifying team spot for State. This marks the first time the CJH XC girls qualified as a team, and they were the only team outside of Memphis-Shelby County to earn the honor.
The undefeated CJH boys’ team raced under cloudy skies and cooler weather on Thursday, along with more than 250 of the region’s best runners. After a runner-up finish the last meet of the regular season, Camden’s Ayden Melton was determined to be the first to cross the timing mat. He and a Jackson rival took the first mile in a blistering 5:19 pace, but it was too much for the Augustine runner to hold. Melton stretched his lead over the last hilly mile to 21 seconds and won in a finish time of 11:10 (5:25/mile).
Pete Douglas charged up the final distance to place fifth overall in a personal best time of 12:01 (5:50/mile). It was all black and gold from there, with eight Lions runners in the top 20 percent of the field. Matthew Arnold (28th), Angelo Arnold (31st), Gage Johnson (40th), Kade Johnson (43rd), Brady Morris (44th), and Jackson Thornton (50th) all posted impressive runs. The team total of 82 points not only advanced them to State, besting Memphis powerhouse Houston by 17 points, but also won them the title of West Region Champions.
Coaches Amber Douglas and Sarah Comuzie were thrilled both with the teams’ qualifications and the season’s success. “They train hard together and buy into the team racing concept. Everyone plays an important role. We can’t wait to see what they can do at State!” said Douglas.
“They started working back in May when we didn’t know if we would get to run a single race this year. Each one gave 100 percent every day to make the team better. We coaches could not be more proud of them,” said Comuzie. “Everywhere we go, we show up with this small army, but when we leave, they remember us. Our teams have been dominant all year long – our boys’ team is undefeated! I guarantee our teams are going to make Camden very proud at State!”
The Tennessee State Cross Country Championships for junior high and middle school runners will be held at the Knoxville Livestock Center on Saturday, Oct. 17. The CJH runners look forward to representing their hometown at the State Meet.