By Mike Blackerby
Jake Renfree’s individual state title was pretty much expected.
On the girls’ side, West High School’s team championship came out of the blue.
Those were two of the highlights Saturday at the Division I Large Class cross country state championships at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.
Renfree, a much-decorated Catholic senior, finally broke through to claim the individual title that had eluded him after finishing fourth and second at the last two state meets.
He finished the 3.1-mile Steeplechase course in 15:25.58 to win handily over runner-up David Ahlmeyer (15:40.85) of Beech.
West, after finishing second behind Farragut at the Region 2 meet, pulled off the shocker of the state meet.
“I thought we could probably run pretty well, but I didn’t think we’d run that well,” said stunned Lady Rebels coach Patrick Gildea.
“Pretty well to me was fifth or sixth. I thought we just ran as a team today – that was our objective.”
Gildea said West had extra motivation after a recent tragedy.
He accompanied most of the team to the recent funeral of former West runner Madeline Shook, who died in a car accident Oct. 16 in Raleigh, N.C.
Shook was a standout runner at West before transferring after the 2016 season.
She was a 16-year-old junior at Cardinal-Gibbons High School in Raleigh, N.C., when she was killed in the recent single-car crash.
“We had something extra to run for the last couple of weeks,” said Gildea.
“It might have been an underlying thing.”
Marley Townsend topped West Saturday with her ninth-place showing and 19:08.63 finish.
Other scorers for the Lady Rebels were Elizabeth Babb (19:26.71) in 15th, Emma Dewalt (20:01.59) in 28th, Elisabeth Bernard (20:35.82) in 48th and Macy Kraslawsky (21:17.27) in 83rd.
West totaled 130 points to beat out Farragut (155) and Brentwood (168). Hardin Valley (220) was ninth.
Gildea said his team certainly performed to its potential across the board. Four of his seven girls had never even run the Steeplechase course before.
“You can’t just look at one girl in particular,” he said. “Collectively, every single one of them (ran well).”
Don’t look for West to disappear after this season.
“We only graduate one girl in our top five,” explained Gildea.
“Everybody else is a freshman or a junior.”
Meanwhile, the competition on the boys’ side is likely ecstatic they don’t have to see Renfree again at the state meet.
He broke free of Ahlmeyer with less than a mile to go and coasted in for the victory.
“It was just me and David with about 2.5 miles to go,” said Renfree. “I just turned on the jets and opened it up.”
Renfree was ecstatic with his time, which was a personal PR on the course.
“One of my teammates told me it was the fourth-fastest all-time on the course,” he said.
Winning a state championship in cross country was one of the few bits of unfinished business for the Notre Dame commitment.
“I really wanted to get it last year, but things just didn’t go as planned,” he recounted.
“I’ve been thinking about it (winning a state championship) and going over every possible scenario this season. This is kind of the last box I’ve checked off. I’m happy.”
Also locally, Jordan Thomas (16:26.99) of West finished 15th to claim all-state honors.
Siegel won the state team title with 73 points to easily best runner-up Bartlett (145). Hardin Valley (209) was fifth and Farragut seventh (224).
Joshua Ebbert of Farragut was 24th in 16:41.28.
Kaden Keller topped youthful HVA with his 32nd-place finish in 16:52.58.