By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School cross country runners took to the course at Steele Creek in Bristol on Thursday, Oct. 19, for the Big 11 Conference meet.

The Blue Devils raced without lead runner John Campbell, according to head coach Thad Higgins.

“We did have a few injuries that hampered performances or even kept the athletes out of the race this week,” Higgins said. “John needed some extra time to recuperate this week in order to prepare for regionals, but he should be returning for Thursday’s race.”

The Blue Devils who were able to compete – Darren Soulier, Jordan Bridges and Sergio Vidrio – turned in solid performances, Higgins said.

“All three of the guys ran a great race,” he added. “They all set course records for themselves and Jordan even set a new 5K personal record for himself.”

Cheyenne Wilson led the way for the Lady Devils at the conference meet, according to Higgins.

“Cheyenne finished first for the girls and was only 10 seconds off her personal record,” he added. “Megan Todd finished second, with her sister Sabrina Todd close behind her. Another big standout was Melodie Bocock who bested her old time by almost 5 minutes. Melodie was new to the team this year and has really pushed herself to be better at every race. This was a real struggle for her because she is also a varsity cheerleader and has had to split her practice time between cross country and cheerleading.”

The UCHS runners will compete for state berths on Thursday, Oct. 26, in the region meet at Daniel Boone High School.

“With only our state qualifier left the focus of the team this week will be to make sure they stay healthy and are as fresh as possible,” Higgins said. “We have already run the regional course once this year and our returning runners have run it several times; so I’m very optimistic that each runner will be able to run a smart race.

“This is something that we focused on at the conference race as well. It’s tempting to just take off at the starting line and try to win the race in the first 100 meters; however, a smart runner will conserve that energy and use it later in the race. Since we’ve been working on some of these smaller things, I’m hoping to see them play out more at our race Thursday. This has been a great season with a lot of growth from each athlete, and I’m excited to see how they finish it out, or even move on, Thursday afternoon.”