NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Dobyns-Bennett senior Sasha Neglia captured a state cross country championship at Percy Warner Park in Nashville this morning and led the Lady Indians to a team title.
It was Neglia’s third individual championship and her 17:22.9 was her best-ever time on the course.
Neglia pulled away from local rival Jenna Hutchins, a Science Hill sophomore, to win by nearly 30 seconds. Hutchins, battling with Fred J. Page junior Leigh Walters down the stretch, fell near the finish line and finished third in 17:54.9, three seconds behind Walters.
Neglia, who will run for UNC-Chapel Hill next year, said she wanted to stay with the lead pack early. She said she crested a hill about halfway through the race and pulled away from there. “I was feeling really good and I just tried to keep my momentum from that and just keep pushing,” Neglia said.
“I knew I had pulled away a little bit. I didn’t know how much, but you can’t be worried about that.” Neglia will run next in the Nike Cross Regionals late this month, where she hopes to qualify for the national meet.
Coach Bob Bingham’s Lady Indians 60 points were 35 better than runner up Brentwood. The coach praised his four seniors as “a really good bunch” both athletically and academically.
“We amped training up this year and that made a difference,” Bingham said. “Another thing that really made a difference, we’ve come down here in the past as a team and we were hoping to win. This year they came down and expected to win — it’s a totally different mindset. That started after track season back in June.”
Also scoring for DB were Emma Russum, Autumn Headrick, Juliann McReynolds and Gracie Allen. Russum, a senior, was seventh overall and fifth in scoring in 18:39.8.
Three one hundredths of a second separated freshman Headrick and senior McReynolds. They were 12th and 13th in scoring and 20th and 21st overall in 19:38.16 and 19:38.19. Senior Allen rounded out the scoring in 29th (44th overall) in 20:21.7.
“It’s a mentally tough bunch and when you get down to this point if you’re not mentally tough it’s just not going to happen,” Bingham said. The title was the Lady Indians’ third. The team also won two titles in the 1990s.
Science Hill was fourth in the team standings at 162 points, a result that pleased coach Evan Meeuwenberg and matched the team’s ranking. Daniel Boone’s girls finished eighth.
“It’s our best finish in several years,” Meeuwenberg said. “I’m really excited with the team effort and performance today. All the girls ran really strong and they’ve been working really hard — I’m really proud of them and they were happy with the finish.”
Aside from Hutchins, who is ranked seventh nationally in one poll, Meeuwenberg said sophomore Trinny Duncan, 35th overall in 20:07.5 (22nd in scoring) proved a strong second runner on the team all year. Senior Destiny Haller was 34th in scoring and 49th overall in 20:27.7.
The Hilltoppers have a strong young core, Meeuwenberg said. In addition to one-two sophomores Hutchins and Duncan, freshman Jordan McIntosh ran fourth on the team. “She’s really been a valuable part of our team,” Meeuwenberg said of McIntosh. “She’s stepped up and made a big difference for us.”
Junior Ashley Doyle rounded out the scoring, with her 21:03 just three seconds behind McIntosh.
Meeuwenberg said she was happy for Dobyns-Bennett’s senior-laden squad. “They’ve been up there the past few seasons,” she said. “They’ve been strong all season and just running really well, so it’s cool to see it come together for them this year, since last year was a little bit disappointing for them.”
Neglia and Hutchins were locked in a battle for first last year when Neglia inadvertently cut a turn, resulting in a disqualification.
Hutchins couldn’t repeat her recent region victory over Neglia. “Sasha came out there ready to race and it just wasn’t Jenna’s day. She’s had a great season and it’s nothing to hang her head about. To be a sophomore and doing what she’s already doing is amazing.”
Daniel Boone’s scoring runners were led by freshman Kamryn Wingfield (22nd overall, 14th in scoring) in 19:39.9. Senior Judy Chellah (20:14.2) was 26th, 40th overall followed by junior Patricia Chellah in 20:17.7 (28th/43rd). Senior Grace Sheldon ran a 21:18.4 (67th/83rd) and Lauren Spry, a senior, was 86th in scoring in 21:51.7.
Science Hill’s Jones seventh, Daniel Boone’s Wingfield 16th in boys’ race
Science Hill senior Aaron Jones and Daniel Boone sohomore Conner Wingfield led their teams in the boys’ race. Jones was seventh overall in 16:03.3 and Wingfield placed 16th in 16:17.3. Boone’s boys were eighth overall while the Hilltoppers placed 11th.