It's still early in the season and the sun was beating down on the course at Moccasin Bend, but there was some serious running going on in the annual PowerAde Invitational cross country meet Saturday morning.
Bradley's Paul Smith and Knoxville Catholic's Annie Batcheller were individual winners as both led from the opening horn.
The Baylor boys prevailed over Farragut in that team race while the Farragut girls beat runner-up GPS for team honors among the girls.
Smith, who was the runner-up to Baylor's Simon Holden last year in 16:20, broke from the line and never looked back.
He was strong on all three of the one-mile loops and finished six-seconds ahead of second-place Joe Bindner of Knoxville Catholic with a time of 16 minutes, 35 seconds.
Farragut's Louis Morris was third in 17:06 while Baylor's John Carlson moved up in the final mile to finish fourth by a step over teammate Alex Sumida with times of 17:09.06 and 17:09.28, respectively.
The race wasn't nearly as close among the girls as Batcheller had a 17-second advantage after one loop, 32 seconds after two and a winning margin of 64 seconds at the finish with a time of 19 minutes, 56 seconds.
Farragut's Anna Woodford finished second in 21:00 as she steadily moved toward the front. Lenoir City's Haley Morris was third in 21:13 while Farragut's Anna McMichael was fourth in 21:19 and Lucy Whitfield of GPS fifth in 21:20.
With Carlson, Sumida, Jackson Goodwin and Anders Pokela all finishing in the top 10 (the two Bradley runners were unattached on Saturday), Baylor finished first with 34 points.
Farragut had three in the top 10, but finished second with 45 points. Knox Catholic was third with 111.
The Farragut girls were strong from the start as they ran in a pack from the opening horn. They had four in the top 10 to win with 32 points while GPS was second with 54. Knox Catholic was third with 81.
Smith was visibly exhausted when allowed to slow down in the finish chute, but the Bradley senior was all business on the course. He's hoping to have a big last year as he tries to improve on last year's 14th-place finish at the State Meet in Nashville.
He looked strong in the first meet of the Chattanooga Cross Country League two weeks ago and he looked pretty darn tough on Saturday under difficult conditions.
"I'm tired as my feet were hurting and I thought that my toes were coming out of my shoes," he said while watching other guys approach the finish line.
"My time was faster than it was in the first meet, so I'm happy about that, but I gave it all I had today. I never gave a second thought to what my time was last year. I was just trying to go big and now I'm going home," he concluded with a smile.
Bindner is a 16-year-old junior who was hoping for a faster time.
"I ran 9:59 for two miles a couple of weeks ago. This was my first race of the season and I just wanted to see what I could do. My plan was to run three 5:10 miles, but that didn't work," he said.
"I was with Harold for the first mile, but I'm mad at myself because I didn't run fast enough today. My legs are shot," he added.
Batcheller was in complete control as she ran fast and alone for the entire distance. She's used to running a lot of hills in training, so Saturday's flat course was a welcome relief for the 17-year-old senior.
"We didn't taper at all for this meet so I wasn't real rested. I had a bad last year as I was anemic, so I wanted to give it my all today. This was my first race of the season and it was nice and flat. If I had the race to run again, I don't think I would have gone out so fast," she added, noting that her first mile was a 6:08.
Woodford isn't normally the number-one runner for the Lady Admirals, but she was at the top of the list on Saturday.
"It was painful and hard with three loops, but it feels good now. I wasn't expecting to run that well, but we had a good pack and I have some awesome teammates. They all ran great and really helped me today," the slender junior said quietly.
Whitfield was in third place after the first loop before moving up to second just past the midway point. The proverbial big black bear came stomping out of the woods on that third mile and jumped on her back as she was forced to slow down.
Despite a tough finish, she was smiling from ear to ear and very much pleased with the results.
"I really died at the end, but I'm pretty happy overall," Whitfield suggested.
"I started out too fast and probably should have been a little slower, but I hope to be able to run the second and third miles as fast as the first one before the season ends," she concluded.
While Whitfield was credited with a fourth-place finish in the team results, teammate Tori Tomokane-Verville was eighth in 21:36.
Other outstanding individuals from the Chattanooga area included Ooltewah's Garret Flores in sixth with a time of 17:15 and Soddy Daisy's Kacy Roberson tenth in 21:48.
There were seven teams in the girls division while there were 11 teams among the guys.
The next race for the Chattanooga Cross Country League will be at Camp Jordan on Tuesday. The JV race is set for 5 p.m. while the girls toe the line at 5:40 and the guys at 6:20.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)