By TREY WILLIAMS
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and the coronavirus-challenged 2020 cross country season will be cherished more and more by the Daniel Boone and David Crockett programs as time passes.
The Trailblazer boys recorded a perfect score at the Big 11 Conference championship, and David Crockett’s girls won their first regional title since 1982 after finishing a close second to Boone in the Big 11 meet.
And it was all done while constantly wondering if the pandemic would erase the season’s finish line.
“It was definitely a different type of season,” Daniel Boone Coach Len Jeffers said, “one where coaches spent more time wondering if there would be a season and on pins and needles concerned about if or when student-athletes would miss time, as well as the new guidelines and restrictions for hosting meets.”
Jeffers noted the critical support from school administrators, the athletic department and the grounds crew.
“It was awesome to have Dr. (Bill) Flanary (director of schools), Danny Good (athletic director) and Tim Campbell (principal) all there at the state meet,” Jeffers said. “We were fortunate to make it through the season, host the 48th Trailblazer Invitational and get all of our postseason events in, including the state championships and hosting the region championships. One thing that didn’t change was our team goals and we accomplished most all of them with conference titles for both teams, a region title, state qualifying berths for both and two All-State performers.”
Junior Conner Wingfield finished 15th at the state meet. Junior Levi Streeval returned from an injury to finish 20th and sophomore Bryson Lewis came in 39th, helping the Trailblazers finish seventh in the state.
Boone’s boys won the conference for the fifth year in a row and ninth time in past 10 years.
“And in doing so,” Jeffers said, “they accomplished the feat of a perfect score with the top five finishers. It was the first time in 57 years and only the second time that had ever been done. They went on to win the region championship for the fifth straight year and eighth time in past nine years.”
“Conner Wingfield won seven of the eight races (this season), including the conference and region titles, and earned All-State honors. Freshman Luke Mussard, sophomore Bryson Lewis, senior Evan Bruce and sophomore Alex Quackenbush joined Wingfield as the top 5 finishers at the Conference meet for the perfect score and earned All-Conference honors along with sophomore Ashton Sheesley. Wingfield, Mussard, Lewis and Quackenbush earned All-Region honors also. Junior Levi Streeval returned from an injury to place 20th at the state meet and junior Sam Hall also competed.”
Boone’s girls won the conference title for the second time in three years and placed second in the region. Sophomore Kamryn Wingfield stole the show down the stretch.
“Kamryn Wingfield was runner-up at conference and saved her best for last,” Jeffers said, “as she placed 14th at state for All-State honors, the first Boone girl to earn All-State since 1997, and in doing so, broke the school record by 40 seconds.”
Joining Wingfield on the All-Conference team were seniors Patricia Chellah and Natalie Fellers and freshmen Emily Diehl and Ella Battel.
Wingfield, Chellah and Fellers made the All-Region team. Senior Nicole Griffith and freshman Payton Laney rounded out the girls squad at the state championships.
The challenging season was especially gratifying.
“I want to give a big shout-out to our seniors, Patricia Chellah, Natalie Fellers, Nicole Griffith, Marinda Walls, Evan Bruce and Carson Sells for their leadership, support and for always putting the team first,” Jeffers said.
“And to our parents for all of their time, support, help and assistance with fundraising, team get-togethers and home meets.”
Along with winning the first region title in 38 years, David Crockett’s girls program finished sixth at the state meet, higher than any team in the region at the state.
It capped a storybook season, during which senior Rachel Dulaney was quarantined 24 days and sophomore Breanna Dunn was quarantined 14 days.
“Breanna had already missed several weeks because of a house fire,” Crockett Coach Mark Jennings said. “The girls were able to rebound and placed second at the Big 11 Conference Championships.
All five of Crockett’s scoring girls earned All-Conference honors. The next week the girls were able to step it up and win the Region meet for the first time since 1982. The girls peaked at the state meet with Breanna Dunn, Rachel Dulaney and Emily Ward finishing the 5K under 20 minutes. Freshman Hannah McLain finished in 20:05 and Ashlynn Roy in 20:33. …
“I’m very proud of how they peaked at the right time and what fighters they all are. Two girls had season-best times and five had personal records.”
The boys team was led by seniors Bryson Livesay and Gideon Dowling and sophomore Gideon Erwin.
“They worked hard all summer with the goal of going to state,” Jennings said. “After our home race at Fender’s Farm the boys looked in good position to complete that goal.”
But then Livesay and three teammates had to quarantine 14 days.
“The boys returned in time for the Big 11 Conference Championship,” Jennings said. “They did not have their best race of the season but placed third and felt confident in making the top three at the region meet.”
The night before the region, No. 5 runner Carl Andes had to quarantine 14 days due to exposure at school.
“The team was still feeling confident when three hours before the race number three runner Gideon Erwin was quarantined for exposure at school 10 days earlier,” Jennings said. “After losing two scoring runners the boys still put up a valiant effort but came up three points short to Sullivan East for the third spot in the region that would have sent the boys to state. Bryson Livesay and Gideon Dowling finished in the top 10 and qualified as individuals.”
Livesay finished 35th and Dowling was 87th in a field of 194 runners.
“I want to brag on what fighters (Livesay and Dowling) are,” Jennings said. “Bryson went out and fell early, and has the spike marks to prove it. But he did not give up.
“He got up, adjusted his glasses, and ran a sub-17 5K. Gideon ran hard and returned to his pre-quarantine form.”
Indeed, merely finishing the 2020 season required resilience.
“After 14 quarantines, one house fire, a dislocated knee cap and one stress fracture,” Jennings said, “it was an interesting year.”