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TREADING NEW GROUND

November 10, 2017

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools

Dawson Reed watched as the rest of his cross country teammates ran past the finish line.

The senior had run the 5K course in 16:09 to finish the state meet in sixth place. Freshman Tucker Moss was the 10th runner at 16:23 and, for the next minute, Reed sat at the edge of the finishing zone and watched.

At 17:13, all five Siegel High School runners had crossed.

Reed looked around and was certain no other team had more than three runners finish.

“I think we just won this thing,” Reed recalled thinking.

After telling his teammates, he said, “Everyone was trying to calm me down and said, ‘Don’t think about that right now. You don’t know. You don’t know.’ But I was like, ‘I think we just won.’

“Before I even left the finishing box I thought we had won it.”

It took about 10 minutes before coach Phil Young, who is in his 10th season coaching cross country, confirmed the Siegel High boys were in fact the Tennessee state champions.

Siegel defied all expectations.

“All I ever wanted was to win that state meet,” said Reed, who added. “It means pretty much everything to me.”

The seven-man varsity team had two seniors — one of whom, Reed, transferred to the school in January — four sophomores and a freshman.

By virtue of finishing in the Top 15 with their individual times, Reed and Moss also earned All-State honors.

“Honestly, there really weren’t any expectations because we were so young,” Coach Young said. “We knew we were going to have to work hard and trust the process and believe in the process and believe in each other. And then hopefully continue to improve.”

Young added, “We had depth. We had a sixth and seventh (runner).”

The key however, was the work they put forth in the spring and summer when, as a team, they developed consistency and as a result learned to trust and rely on one another.

“How you’re going to be in October and November is truly based on what you do in June and July,” Young said.

Despite a pre-season ranking of 25th in the state and a season-opening win in Bowling Green, Kentucky, it was a fifth place finish at an event in Memphis that gave Young a reason to think his young and largely inexperienced Siegel team could potentially qualify for the state meet.

The Memphis event was a stacked field with teams from throughout the Southeast.

By then, Young said his team had learned how to “make each other better and that’s why we were successful.”

Despite being a senior, Reed said the 2017 season “was a process” for him too. He had never been a member of a team until last spring when he ran the 1,600- and 3,200-meter in track.

As a young boy, he dreamed of winning a state basketball title with his father coaching the team. However, his father predicated he’d claim a state title in cross country.

“As a kid who had never run cross country before, I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’” said Reed, who hugged his father afterward. “There were not a lot of words. It was a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”

In addition to the boys state title, the girls qualified for their 15th consecutive state meet. As a team, the girls have been close to the podium having finished fourth in 2012.

This year, Rachel Strayer, 12, and Marilyn McCarthy, 14, both earned All-State honors.

In the past five years, Young said, Siegel runners have earned 13 athletic scholarships to college.

“I’ve been lucky,” said Young, who was relatively modest about the expectations of winning multiple state titles as his sophomores — Canaan Anderson, Jacob Boykin, Don Kim and Emilo Vernon — and freshman — Moss — gain more experience. “That’s what I’ve been told. I’ve been told that by other coaches, yeah.”