McCallie's Matthew Jones topped the last hill and headed toward the finish line in first place.
It looked like he had a first-place finish all locked up, but he was more surprised than anyone when teammate Derek Barnes went racing by him in the final stretch to win the race at Greenway Farm Saturday morning in the annual McCallie Invitational cross country meet.
Barnes had been sick this week and wasn't even sure he'd be going to the starting line Saturday. He must have felt a whole lot better in a hurry as he covered the hilly 3.
1-mile course in 16:02 to beat his teammate Jones by a second.
Ravenwood's Quinn avirom was third in 16:13 while Daniel Ellis of Collins Hill and Elliott Baerman of Webb completed the top five with times of 16:31 and 16:33, respectively.
McCallie's Ramsay Ritchie was sixth in 16:33 and Will Moore eighth in 16:44 as McCallie won the team competition with 44 points.
Oak Ridge was second with 92 while Collins Hill was third.
McMinn County senior Haley Ward made her season debut in a positve way as she won the girls race in 18:55.
Runner-up Peighton Maske of Webb was second in 19:09 while Ravenwood's Dabney Chitwood was third in 19:24. Webb's Madeline Christian and Scottsboro's Savannah Roland were fourth and fifth with times of 19:26 and 19:31, respectively.
Chitwood set the pace to lead Ravenwood to the girls' team title with 60 points while Harpeth Hall was second with 88 and Scottsboro third with 98.
Barnes was McCallie's first finisher in last Saturday's Chattanooga Cross Country Festival at Chickamauga Dam. He proved once again that he can really go when the chips are on the line.
"I'm glad that it was overcast as it didn't seem as hot as it has been," Barnes said while sipping on a cup of water at the end of the finish chute.
"I knew it would be a fast race, but Matthew was in front the whole way. I didn't take the lead until the final 50 yards, but this was a personal record for me by about 40 seconds. It's an amazing feeling and I'm really happy," Barnes added.
"This is the best race I've had in a long time," Jones said with a smile on his face after the grueling battle had ended.
"Our coaches challenged us this morning, so we just went after it. I didn't know that Derek was behind me, but he came out of nowhere at the end. I thought that I had it, but we were so close to the finish I couldn't respond.
"It was a great race for our entire team as our front pack is awesome. As long as somebody from McCallie was first, it didn't matter to me who it was," Jones added.
Coach Mike Wood was extremely happy with the performance of his Blue Tornado squad, especially considering the quality of the field.
"That was just fantastic," he said when assessing the overall results.
"We challenged them to be aggressive today and they were. It was a real high-quality field and I was just hoping that we could get a couple of runners in the top five. I think that Matthew did all the work, but Derek has a ferocious kick and he showed it again today," Wood added.
Ward is the defending Class AAA state cross champion who is really an outstanding athlete. In addition to cross country, she's equally as talented in soccer and basketball. She only played six soccer matches this week, so she really had a great reason to be just a bit tired when she reached the finish line.
"My shins are tight, but it was alright considering how tired I am," she said afterward.
"I did my best as it was my goal to win. I knew there were some really good runners here and I was a little bit scared during the race. I tried to surge in the second mile and I slowly pulled away, but I had a good 10-second lead with about a mile to go.
"To be so tired, I guess my time is decent, but my goal is to be close to 17:30 before the season ends," Ward predicted.
McMinn County coach Tim Smith doesn't even want to talk about her soccer activity, but he knows how good she is on the cross country course and he's thankful that she runs for the Lady Cherokees.
"This is her first race of the year and she did pretty good," Smith began.
"If she wins the race, the time normally takes care of itself, but it's mainly about winning for her. She's a competitor. I know from my own experience that recovery is a big part of improvement. It's hard to get better when you don't allow the recovery process to take place.
"I know there were a lot of really good runners here today, so I'm proud of her accomplishment," Smith added.
There were 14 different teams entered in Saturday's event and they've won 45 state championships between them.
GPS was the only other Chattanooga team beside McCallie and the Bruisers finished ninth with 212 points. Lucy Whitfield was the leader for the Bruisers with a 14th-place time of 20:23.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)