There were a couple of first-time winners on Tuesday afternoon at Camp Jordan as the Chattanooga Cross Country League had its first official meet of the season.
It was plenty hot and the humidity was relentless, so race officials decided to shorten the first race from the customary 5K distance to a two-mile test.
The heat didn’t seem to bother the overall winners as Signal Mountain’s Taylor Luthringer and Jonathan Boyd of the Chattanooga Patriots prevailed without a problem with outstanding times of 12:18 and 10:40, respectively.
Counting the junior varsity race, which had the largest group with 267 boys and girls in the first race, at least 617 runners crossed the finish line. There were 191 boys and 159 girls and more than 21 scoring teams.
Baylor freshman Addison Smith, a promising 14-year-old freshman, set the pace for the girls as she was the leader at the first mile while Luthringer and teammate Stephanie Peterson were just a couple of steps back.
But by the time they reappeared and headed down the final stretch to the finish line, Luthringer had shifted into another gear and was clearly in control.
The Signal Mountain junior was first in 12:18 while Smith was second some nine seconds later. Peterson was third in 12:37 while Kathryn Vradenburgh of the Chattanooga Patriots was fourth in 13:00 and Carley Braman of GPS fifth in 13:04.
Luthringer, who earned All-State honors last year by finishing fifth in the Class A-AA State Meet when the Lady Eagles won the state, hardly slowed down after crossing the finish line. She wasted no time exiting the chute and heading back to the final stretch where she could cheer on her teammates.
“I’m really happy, but it was hot out there,” the 16-year-old blonde smiled when she finally stopped to talk.
“I’ve been running in the heat all summer, so I was ready for it today, but this is my first win ever and I’m so very happy. I was expecting Grace Carlson to be out front, but it was another girl who I had never seen before. I finally caught her with about a half-mile to go,” Luthringer said of her race with Smith.
The Baylor freshman, running her first varsity race, didn’t hesitate to take off fast at the start, but she was unable to maintain that blistering pace in the second half. Despite finishing second, this 14-year-old speedster was pleased with the results.
“I felt like I had to go out fast because I don’t have a strong kick at the end. I tried to stay with the Signal Mountain girl when she passed me, but I couldn’t. I need to work on the back half of my race. I was hoping to do well today, but I wasn’t expecting to finish second,” she added.
With Luthringer and Peterson finishing in the top five, Signal Mountain won the team competition with 44 points. Baylor was second with 52 and GPS third with 77.
Boyd came from behind to beat the boys with his 10:40 while Baylor teammates Anders Pokela and John Carlson followed with times of 10:45 and 10:46, respectively.
Dalton’s Moises Ponce was fourth in 11:01 while Southeast Whitfield’s Luis Perez was fifth in 11:06.
Boyd, like Luthringer, was not the leader in the first half as he waited until just the right moment to make his move. But once he decided to put the hammer down, nobody was able to catch him.
“It was hard, but it feels great to win,” the 15-year-old home-schooled sophomore expressed.
“I just wanted to hang with the lead pack as I tried to push as hard as I could, but I took the lead about a mile and a quarter. My confidence was strong and I thought I had a chance to win with about 800 meters left, but I was burning,” he added.
Pokela is a 17-year-old senior for Baylor who is ready to lead the Red Raiders back to the top. With Pokela and Carlson finishing second and third, Baylor was able to win the team competition with 43 points.
Dalton was second with 97 while Ooltewah finished a distant third with 189.
“I tried to break away just before we got to the first mile, but it didn’t work out,” Pokela said later.
“I was able to outkick my buddy John Carlson at the end, so it’s a good start for me and our team. I would have loved to have won, but I’ll be back again next week,” he promised.
Walt Douglas of Coahulla Creek was the winner in the JV race as he posted a time of 11:32.
There will not be a league race next week as many of the local teams will gather on Sept.
12 at Moccasin Bend for the PowerAde Invitational, but the next league race will be back at Camp Jordan on Sept. 15 before going to Baylor the following week.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)