By Keeli Parkey
For the second consecutive year the Unicoi County Middle School cross country program will be represented at the TMSAA state championships later this month.
Thanks to her sixth place finish in the TMSAA Northeast Sectional Meet held in Greeneville on Sept. 26, eighth grader Marissa Soulier punched her ticket to the state competition.
“It was an excellent run for Marissa,” head coach Lydia Hilliard said. “She placed sixth and secured her spot to run in the TMSAA Cross Country State Championships. Marissa has worked hard all season and produced great results. This is her second year in a row to qualify for the state championships. I have complete confidence in her ability and know that Marissa will do well at the state championships. She is thrilled for the opportunity to represent UCMS and the sport she loves. The boys and girls teams have been very supportive and wish Marissa the best.”
Soulier finished the 2-mile course in a time of 14:21. She was the only UCMS runner to advance to the state meet, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 7, in Clarksville.
Hilliard said she was proud of her runners at this meet and throughout the season.
“The top runners competed in this meet and gave it their all,” she added. “I was very proud of both varsity teams and happy with their results. Both teams have been consistent all season. I appreciate their hard work and love that they are already talking about next season.”
Notable finishers for the Jr. Lady Devils included: Jimena Rodriguez-Avila in 36th place; Katlyn Nelson in 37th place; Isabella Howard in 38th place; Candace Tolley in 39th place; and Cora Hartley in 40th place.
Notable finishers for the Jr. Blue Devils included: Tristan Duncan in 27th place; Aidan O’Hare in 35th place; Will Byrd in 36th place; Christopher Chavez in 37th place; Eli Riddell in 38th place; Kade Lemmon in 39th place; and Canaan Webb in 40th place.
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The next-to-last meet of the season for the Jr. Blue Devil and Jr. Lady Devil runners was the Bristol Cross held at Steele Creek Park on Sept. 23.
“This meet took place in hot weather and on a tough course,” Hilliard said. “The Bristol Cross was very competitive. Both teams gave it their all and had great results.”
Soulier placed seventh out of a field of 195 runners and set another school record.
“This was another personal best for Marissa,” Hilliard said. “She also broke her own 2-mile school record with a time of 13:19. Marissa placed seventh and received her fifth medal of the season. Marissa strives to do her personal best with each new race.”
Hartley turned in a solid performance for the Jr. Lady Devils.
“Cora had a personal best for the season and decreased her time by 24 seconds,” Hilliard said.
Other notable finishes for the Jr. Lady Devils included: Rodriguez-Avila in 89th place; Nelson in 92nd place; and Tolley in 144th place.
Duncan led the day for the Jr. Blue Devils with a time of 14:59 and finishing in 68th place. Riddell also turned in a standout performance.
“Eli had a personal best with a time of 15:07 and decreased his running time by 2 minutes and 17 seconds,” Hilliard said.
Other notable finishes for the Jr. Blue Devils included: O’Hare in 99th place; Byrd in 110th place; and Lemmon in 111th place.