By Keeli Parkey

The 2017 cross country season ended for the runners of Unicoi County High School at the region meet held at Daniel Boone High School on Thursday, Oct. 26. The Blue Devils and Lady Devils were competing against some of the largest schools in the region for spots in the upcoming state meet.

Unfortunately for head coach Thad Higgins and his runners, no UCHS athlete qualified for the state meet.

“Although we did not have anyone qualify for state this year, we did have several standout performances,” Higgins said. “We talked before the race about the importance of being proud of your accomplishment no matter what time you ran, and I really think that each of our athletes was proud of the effort that he or she gave Thursday.”

As he did throughout the season, junior John Campbell led the way for the Blue Devils, finishing the region meet in a time of 19:24. Sophomore Darren Soulier finished the race with a time of 19:32 – just one second off his personal record. Freshman Jordan Bridges finished with a time of 20:55. Senior Sergio Vidrio finished with a time of 27:01.

“To put Sergio’s time in perspective, his time of 27 minutes is nearly a 4 minute improvement from his first run of the season,” Higgins said. “I am extremely proud of the effort he put in throughout the season.”

For the Lady Devil squad, sophomore Cheyenne Wilson was the only varsity finisher, according to Higgins; she completed the race in a time of 23:02.

“It’s significant that she easily finished in the top half of the competitors in a race that had 114 finishers and the largest schools in the area,” Higgins said. “I am very proud of her for her performance.”

Freshman Sabrina Todd and senior Melodie Bocock represented UCHS in the junior varsity race last week.

“They both had exceptional races,” Higgins said. “Sabrina Todd and Melodie Bocock both ran in the Junior Varsity race, and had exceptional races. Sabrina ran her best time of the season by far with a time of 24:21 and had a ninth place finish. Melodie also pushed herself to a personal record. Her time was nearly two minutes faster than her previous time at 37:54. Furthermore, this time is 7 minutes faster than her first race time of the season.”

Even though no runners advanced to the state meet, Higgins said he was proud of what they accomplished this season.

“Overall, I was extremely happy with this season – the effort, and performance of the athletes,” Higgins said. “We really had a great year this season, in which we were able to have fun as a team and still be very competitive at our races. Of course, the goal is always to get better and I believe that this season has really laid the foundation for an even better performance next year.”

The program’s seniors – Megan Todd, Vidrio and Bocock – have provided important leadership, according to Higgins.

“One of the things that I think has really set us up well to have a great year next cross country season is the performance and leadership of our seniors this year,” Higgins said. “Megan came into this season with the experience of three previous state championship races under her belt. She really took this experience and knowledge and applied it to the rest of the team this year. There were several times that I had other members of the team work with Megan so that she could show them different aspects of running, such as having her show another runner how to run the pace they needed to run. Furthermore, she was always watching and willing to help her teammates if they were struggling with a particular drill or workout that we did. She has been a true boon to this team and we are so proud of her accomplishments and we look forward to the wonderful things she will achieve in the future.

“Melodie and Sergio both came to the cross country team with no previous running experience and still they stuck it out through nearly five months of cross country training,” Higgins continued. “It was a wonderful experience to watch both Melodie and Sergio mature, both as runners and as leaders, during this season. Both of these athletes were splitting their time between cross country and other extracurriculars. … The dedication of these seniors really set a tone throughout this season for the younger athletes that I believe will have lasting effects in this program. I can’t wait to see what opportunities the future holds for these three seniors.”

Higgins said he would like to express his appreciation to all the individuals who supported his runners this season.

“I would just like to thank the community so much for their continued support throughout this year,” he said. “It would be impossible to run a cross country team without the support of the community and we recognize and value that. If you see any of these athletes around make sure that you let them know you’ve been keeping up with them, and congratulate them on a great season.”