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Todd wins conference title

Small numbers netted huge gains for the Unicoi County High School Lady Blue Devil cross country team.
Sophomore Megan Todd took first-place honors, while her team finished in third place overall, at the Three Rivers Conference championship Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Doe River Gorge in Hampton.
“I’m very excited about the entire team’s performance,” said UCHS head coach Thad Higgins. “We had high finishes from several of the ladies, but of course Megan Todd stood out, finishing number one. We knew coming into it that we had a chance of finishing high and it just came down to running smart, running our pace and we were able to do that.”
It was a vast improvement from Todd, who finished eighth during last year’s conference meet. The sophomore used the experience from her freshman campaign to create a sizeable lead from start to finish, crossing the finish line with a time of 21:46. Todd’s finish was more than 30 seconds ahead of runner-up, Paige Roberts of Sullivan East.
“It has been pretty hard,” Todd said about the work leading up to the championship meet. “I’ve been trying to go out harder than anyone at practice, so I can be the best I can be. I knew I really needed to improve my times from last year … I was not up to the best I could be. I’ve been pushing myself harder.”
The work over the year finally led up to a moment that will leave a lasting impression, according to the sophomore.
“That’s one of the biggest things for me,” Todd said about winning the individual title. “I had been nervous all week about this meet.”
Lady Devils Kaitlyn Tilson and Halie Hawkins earned all-conference honors following the conclusion of the event. Tilson wrapped up the competition in eighth and Hawkins finished 11th.
“I mentioned before that we were a young team,” Higgins said. “I’m really excited about the improvement the team has made during the season. Any time there was a change in times, it was due to an injury.”
The injury bug nipped Hawkins, but the dedication she has shown was something that comes naturally for the team, according to the head coach.
“With Halie, I told her this was the last team race we really needed her at and if she was hurting too much, she didn’t have to run next week,” Higgins said. “She said, ‘no, I’m going to regionals’ … to see that type of dedication from a team this size has been great.”
The conference meet also saw Katie Crain and Madison Nicholson scamper across the finish line to help the Lady Blue Devils take third overall, right behind Sullivan South and winner Elizabethton High School.
Blue Devil Andrew Bowen was the top finisher on the boys side for Unicoi County. Close behind were freshman John Campbell and junior Andrew Wilson.
UCHS runners vie for state meet bids on Thursday, Oct. 29, in Gray at Daniel Boone High School. Runners are tentatively scheduled to start around 4 p.m.
Todd brings experience to the regional meet after qualifying for the state competition last year by finishing ninth place at Boone. Any state qualifier from either UCHS team would mark the fifth year in a row that Blue Nation has sent a runner to the state competition.