Photo The West End High girls cross country team gathers for a photo after finishing in third place out of 14 teams in Class 1A-2A at the AHSAA state meet on Saturday, Nov. 11 in Oakville. Pictured, bottom row, from left: Kyra Brusaw, Toree Chaney, Sadie Umphrey, Carolina Rainey, Tyree Chaney, Jada Wright, Kaylee Tarpley, Karlee Tarpley, coach Jessica Tarpley, coach T.J. Tarpley. Top row Paten Battles, Kennedi Nix. (Submitted photo)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
One local runner finished runner-up and another placed third at the AHSAA state cross country meet on Saturday, Nov. 11 in Oakville.
Southside’s Evan Christopher, who came in third at sectionals the previous week, clocked in at 15:46.66 to finish second out of 102 runners in Class 5A. He was eight seconds behind winner Arthur Langley of John Carroll Catholic.
Christopher stayed in the second position for the majority of the race before passing American Christian’s Braden Ary at the three-mile mark. Christopher almost had the finish line within his sights when Langley passed him with about 800 yards to go.
“We went out [at the start] at bit too hard, and I think [Ary] just kind faded off at the end,” said Christopher. “Considering that I was ranked fifth or sixth in the state going, I think it went pretty well.”
Christopher, who finished eighth out of 159 runners in last year’s state meet, bettered his 2022 state time by 25 seconds.
“I wasn’t too concerned with my time going into the race,” he said. “The goal was just to stay in a spot where I could contend, and that’s what I did. I executed the plan perfectly, but I just got out-run in the end.”
Coming off a first-place performance at the sectional meet, West End’s Paten Battles’ time of 19:53.84 out of 150 competitors was only two seconds short of runner-up Kaylie Kay of Athens Bible.
“It felt really good to do so well in first year of running,” said Battles. “It wasn’t a PR for me, but it was a good race. We walked the course the day before and it took us what1 felt like forever getting up and over some of the hills. But during the race it went pretty fast. It was a really pretty course with a lot of different scenery. I liked it a lot better than the ones that have double or triple loops.”
Battles was neck-in-neck with Kay entering the final 100 yards before Kay pulled away down the stretch.
“We turned that last corner and she just took off,” said Battles. “We went back and fourth the whole way but she just had a little bit more in her at the end.”
Battles’ standout effort helped the Lady Patriots place third overall in Class 1A-2A behind Cold Springs and Sand Rock.
“I’m really proud of us for that,” said Battles. “Our coach really trains us hard, and she’s always telling us that if we believe as a team, we’ll go far. We’re losing a pretty good runner (in senior Kaylee Tarpley) but the rest of us are pretty young, so hopefully our times will all improve.”
Along with Christopher and Battles, Ashville’s Ryan Matthews made the all-state team, which is comprised of the top 15 finishers in all classifications. Matthews came in 14th out of a field of 170 in Class 4A boys with a time of 17:12.83.
Three other West End runners finished in the top 30 – Kaylee Tarpley in 20th place at 21:41.29, Karlee Tarpley in 23rd at 21:52.47 and Carolina Rainey in 29th at 22:05.49.
Ashville’s Taylor Knight turned in a 20th place performance in Class 4A girls at 21:23.33, while teammate Allie Cone finished 22nd out of 150 runners at 21:30.56.
Two area runners placed in the top 25 in Class 3A girls – Glencoe’s Sarah Ponder in 17th at 20:23.86 and Hokes Bluff’s Emma Godfrey in 23rd at 21:08.08.