By Maurice Patton
With the TSSAA cross country state championships set to change venues this fall, Division II-A title contender Connor Henson got an early look at the new course Friday.
It went well.
The Columbia Academy junior, a two-time Top 10 finisher – 10th in the Division I Small Class meet in 2018, sixth in the DII-A meet last fall – on Percy Warner Park’s 5K Iroquois Steeplechase course, ran a 16-minute, 24.95-second time at Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville to win the Silver Boys portion of the Coleman Midgett Invitational.
Henson finished more than 35 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Joshua Pote (17:00.59) of Signal Mountain.
“That’s a big boost for him,” CA coach Brady Henson said regarding his son’s performance. “He liked the course a lot, liked the way the race moved. It was a big confidence booster for him.”
Pandemic concerns have delayed the reopening of Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation facilities, resulting in uncertainty as to whether the Steeplechase course would be available for the state meet in early November. TSSAA officials decided last month to secure the Hendersonville facility for the championships and conduct the event over two days, with Division I Large and Small Class boys and girls races slated for Nov. 5 and DII action to follow.
Behind Henson, the Bulldogs posted a third-place team finish as freshman C.J. Durrough (19:21.23), junior Drew Butt (19:24.28) and sophomore Jacob Wair (19:25.17) each turned in Top 40 finishes.
“I think it does help, give us an advantage in (learning) how the course lays, how it feels, what they know is coming,” the coach said. “I think it helps us understand what the course is going to do and how they need to run.”
Signal Mountain won the Silver Boys team title with 41 points, followed by Christian Brothers (105) and Columbia Academy (141). The Bulldogs finished just ahead of DII-A region rivals Battle Ground Academy (142) and Christ Presbyterian Academy (155).
“You’re looking at two really good schools in front of us, and some regional schools we were able to compete with,” Henson said. “BGA, CPA, (Franklin Road Academy) are all in our region. Knowing we’re going to see them, it’s a good benchmark on where we are as well.”
On the girls side, Annabelle Cothran ran a 21:41.09 for sixth place individually and teammate Jaelyn Hickerson finished 10th with a 23:02.57. Cothran placed fifth at last year’s DII-A state meet, following a sixth-place finish in the 2018 Small Class Championships.
Baylor’s Mae Mae Powe ran a 20:13.03 for top Silver Girls honors.
“That’s what I’d hoped for (from them) at this point,” Henson said. “I feel both are really strong runners, and they proved that on that course.
“It was a productive night from a course perspective and how we looked against some regional competition.”