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Todd competes at chilly state meet

Unicoi County High School freshman Megan Todd capped off the cross country season in Erwin with an 80th place finish out of 181 runners in the annual TSSAA Class A/AA state championships held at Percy Warner Steeplechase Course on Saturday, Nov. 1, in Nashville.
“The weather was horrendous,” head coach Gary Howard said. “On the way down, my car had it around 37 degrees with the windchill near seven or eight, and that’s not exactly ideal for a 10 a.m. race but everyone else had to run it, too.
“I thought Megan ran well. She was quick in the first mile. It was different than any race she had with us this year with the crowds down in Nashville. You’re not going to get lonely with thousands of people watching.”
Megan was able to keep her time within 23 minutes and it was a testament to her competitive spirit, Howard said.
“At the end, she was still racing,” he added. “Not once did she give up or want to be happy at a certain spot. She was racing at the end with a group of girls and that is a great trait to have.”
The meet also puts an end on the Howard era at UCHS. Howard assumed the role of cross country head coach from 1982 until now and was part of multiple state title runs and capped off the career with three straight trips to the state meet with a Lady Devil runner.
“I know it is a cliche with the ‘you don’t do it for the glory’,” Howard said. “But, I’ve really enjoyed my time as the coach of the program. After I sit back, I have a little bit of self gratification to know that kids enjoyed their time running. Cross country is a unique sport and you have to push yourself. Everyday I was there to time our runners and help them get better.
“It’s a different type of animal. If you run a 25-minute 5K, you work to get that down to 24.50 and that’s cross country runners are. I’m proud of all the runners I’ve had come through that bought into my style of training. If somebody ran a time they didn’t like, they always pushed themselves to get better.”
With Todd returning next season it’s a bright future ahead for the UCHS program, Howard said.
“It really helps,” he added. “Girls can come out and know they have a chance to make it to the state meet. It is a goal they can go for and achieve and when girls and the guys work for it, they can get there.”