THE JEFFERSON cross country program will take a much more crowded bus over to Carrollton this year.
The school qualified both its boys’ and girls’ cross country teams for the Class AA state meet Saturday with fourth-place finishes at region. Only the girls’ squad went last year, while the Dragons’ Kyle Kashuba earned an individual pass to state.
Coach Allen Thompson said both teams going is a point of pride for the program.
“Absolutely,” he said. “This is the first time in a long time that people in Jefferson can remember both teams going to state. That’s a credit to all their hard work.”
The Lady Dragons earned another trip back to state with a sophomore and two freshmen earning the top three times at region for Jefferson. Sophomore Reese Bowles was fourth with a time of 21:13 while a pair of ninth graders, Sasha Parker (23:03) and Olivia Yates (23:24), placed 19th and 25th respectively. Senior Holly Baron contributed with a 31st place finish (23:52), while another freshman, Emily Elrod, completed the scoring with a 41st place finish (24:34).
“All year, the girls’ team has really been strong,” Thompson said.
The coach noted how younger runners were able to mesh well with veteran performers all season and pointed to the consistency of Bowles, who produced top five finishes in each race this season.
“Reese has been a staple all year,” Thompson said.
He pointed out that Bowles has also been injury-free and, thus, able to compete in 121 consecutive team workouts.
“She’s been very committed to everything … When your hardest workers are also your best runners, you’re going to be successful,” Thompson said.
On the boys’ side, Jefferson qualified for state on the strength of two top 10 finishes. Kashuba, a sophomore, finished third with a 17:18, while senior Trae Timmerman recorded a 17:38 to place eighth in his final Region 8-AA meet. Others scoring were Cain Lorenzo (27th, 18:37), Nick Parker (32nd, 18:55) and Jake Sherman (36th, 19:02).
Four of Jefferson’s five top times were under 19:00.
“We told them the first day of practice that sub-19 times were the goal,” Thompson said.
This will be the first trip to the state meet for the Jefferson boys seniors.
Thompson said he’d seen the boys’ team run so much this year during practice that he could predict each runner’s finish “with my eyes closed.” Still, he was impressed with how well the team represented itself.
“I was a little surprised, but they were challenged and they met the challenge,” Thompson said.
In fact, these challenges from the coaches to the runners were one of the main elements of the Dragons’ workouts.
“Coach (Katie) Sellers and myself really challenged them,” Thompson said. “When they went to region, they really needed that spring.”
To that end, Thompson wants the teams to continue to compete, savor the moment and thrive in the competition they’ll see at state. Thompson said that there’s no specific numerical goal — a specific finish for each team — that’s been set forth.
“Those goals will come as the week goes on,” Thompson said. “We want to go out and compete and run our best race.”
Jefferson’s trip to state is something that took much planning and work. Thompson said both teams have been at work ever since May. He hopes Saturday’s meet is a successful culmination of all that hard work.
“We’re hoping to have a lot of PRs,” Thompson said. “It’s a fast course. It’s a two-loop course. It opens itself up to good times. For our seniors, it’s a great send-off.”