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Coach: True shows determination in state meet

The “disorganized chaos” wasn’t enough to deter Unicoi County High School cross country runner Whitley True from a successful run during the state A/AA cross country meet held in Nashville on Saturday, Nov. 3.
Percy Warner Park Steeplechase Course was the site of the run, which featured over 180 runners vying for top honors in the 5K.
True, who missed half of the season due to injury, finished the contest with a time of 22:49 and a 26th spot in the race.
Finishing in the top portion of the race was a high accomplishment, according to UCHS coach Gary Howard.
“Whitley had a very good run during the afternoon,” he said. “It was a change of pace down in Nashville, coming from the cold temperature around here to near 80-degree down there.”
While the course down in Nashville may not have stacked up as one of the toughest terrain wise, the course was a definite change of pace, said Howard.
“It was disorganized chaos, that’s for sure,” Howard said with a laugh. “It gets packed in the area and it took us an hour from Nashville just to make it to the course. Once everything gets going in the race, you’ve got people following the runners, on top of the 100 who are actually participating in the race.
“The nerves were there, but she really handled herself well during the meet.”
The state competition eluded the UCHS program last year, but Howard was familiar with the course, having brought a cross country team to the state meet a couple of years ago.
“The course just takes it out of the runners,” Howard said. “The athletes’ upper body could be just fine, but they’re lower body would just give out. There was a couple of instances where runners would come full speed around the corner and just fall over from exhaustion. It gets to the point where some runners can even hallucinate just from the fact there’s so many runners taking part in the run.
“It all stacks up on how the willpower and training comes in and Whitley was able to come away with a good performance. She doesn’t really show her emotions, but her determination is shown in each race she participates in.”
While the finish was ideal for the runner, Howard knows it will pay dividends.
“She wasn’t satisfied with her placing, and that just shows how much of a competitor she is,” Howard said.
The run by True ended a season during which Howard saw vast improvements from both the Blue Devil and Lady Devil teams.
“Whitley will be back with the experience and it will only help the team going forward,” he added. “Cross country is a tight knit society and when word gets out about making a state appearance, it only makes the expectations for the other runners so much higher and makes them want to push for a berth.
“Next year will be a very instrumental year for our program. There are good teams in our conference, but we can push next year and we’ll look to bring more of our runners to the meet next year.”

By Curtis Carden
Sports Writer
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