‘Betsy’s Pierce Runs to State Berth
By Rick Sheek
GRAY — Just two weeks into her high school cross country career, Abbi Pierce is headed to the state meet.
The Elizabethton sophomore finished ninth in Thursday’s Region 1-A/AA meet at Daniel Boone. She qualified for next week’s competition at Percy Warner Steeplechase Park in Nashville.
“I was trying to run with a purpose,” Pierce said. “I wanted to finish it out, so I could go next week for my team. Coach Wood was telling me where I was at the whole time, and finally he was just like: ‘You’ve got to go. You’ve got to go.’
“I started sprinting. I thought I was 11th, but it turned out I was ninth.”
Pierce covered the 3.1-mile course in 22:08.64. She was running ninth at the midway point, but had slipped to 10th, before her kick carried to the state berth.
“After coming off a strong volleyball season, she approached me and ask me if she could try out this whole cross country thing,” Elizabethton coach Aaron Wood said. “It’s amazing to see what a girl with her talent and her drive can do. She can be varsity in any sport she wants to.
“We’re just lucky enough to have her out here for us, and for her to really put in the work these past couple of weeks after volleyball and just tune up for what she needed to do.”
In her first race, the Three Rivers Conference meet a week ago, Pierce was beaten by Sullivan North’s Kasey Williams and Unicoi County’s Whitley True. Both of those two girls will be sitting at home next week.
“He told me I had to go, so I took off,” Pierce said. “I was pretty OK when I was coming around, but I was getting tired. When I started sprinting, I thought I’d have to go.”
South Greene’s Cheyenne Upton won the girls’ race in dominating fashion. Her 20:42.19 clocking bettered the effort of Greeneville’s Hannah Rhodes (21:20.95).
Greeneville was the girls’ team champion, defeating runner-up Grainger 45-71. The Lady Cyclones were eighth (193 points) in the nine-team field.
“She’s got loads of talent no matter what she plays, no matter if it’s volleyball or basketball — anything along those lines,” Wood said. “We’re just really blessed to have her on our team, and to have her have the chance to go ahead and show us again what she can do.”
Also for Elizabethton’s girls: Kayla Lyons (25:16.30) finished 35th, Mickayla Sell (27:32.54) was 55th, Danielle Loving (28:45.08) crossed 61st and Summer Reece (28:48.48) placed 62nd.
For Happy Valley’s girls, Kaitlynn Kincer (24:06.37) crossed 23rd, Makaiyla Babb (28:24.31) was 59th and Alexis Hammons (31:30.81) came in 66th.
“I really didn’t think I’d have a chance of qualifying for state,” Pierce said. “Turns out, I guess I did.”
On the boys’ side, Elizabethton’s Coby Atwell (18:08.97) crossed 11th – missing out on making the state by one position.
“He’s been battling asthma infections, everything, all season,” Wood said. “That’s probably the most courageous run that I’ve seen out of my team, through the whole one through seven, all year. Coby led us up front.
“Stewart helped everyone out. Alex, our only senior, he really helped the team out.”
The Cyclones’ Stewart Clark (18:54.86) placed 22nd. Alex Valdez (19:06.18) was 27th.
Elizabethton’s Dalton Callahan (20:10.44) finished 42nd, Nathan May (20:43.66) placed 47th, Justin Grindstaff (21:59.61) was 59th and Dustin Heaton (22:23.62) came in 62nd.
“It’s amazing that we only started August 3rd,” Wood said. “I’m just extremely excited to see what we can do once we train all summer. I couldn’t be happier with how today went, across the board.
“The boys ran great. The girls ran their hearts out.’
Greeneville was the boys’ champion, defeating University High 43-79. Wesley Pectol of Greeneville’s Wesley Pectol was the individual winner in 16:43.95, bettering the effort of Grainger’s Zach Long (16:49.22).
Happy Valley’s Tyerell Hughes (18:48.07) raced to a 18th-place showing. The Warriors’ David Young (21:16.87) was 55th, Shane Parker (24:06.73) came in 70th, Garrett Wood (24:17.84) placed 71st and Will Rhew (25:35.44) finished 73rd.
The Cyclones were sixth (144 points) and Happy Valley (263) was 10th.
Another week of training under her belt should only benefit Carter County’s only representative in Nashville.
“I have no idea,” Pierce said of her thoughts about the next level. “I’m not sure what to expect. I don’t even know where the course is at.”
Her coach expressed his satisfaction in the program’s season.
“We’re just so lucky to have Abbi go, and have her represent us going forward,” Wood said. “I wish I could take all 27 of us. With Coby being so close, that’s just going to be even more motivation going into his senior year, for him raring to go and ready to do what the potential all these boys have to do.
“Across the board, we ran the best we have all season competitively today. I couldn’t ask for anymore as a coach. I couldn’t ask for a better day or a better race than we had today.”