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Markham, Nagle pace Lady Rebels, Rebels to history-making state meet berths
Maryville senior Delaney Markham leads the pack through the halfway point at the Region 2AAA Cross Country Championships last week at Victor Ashe Park in Knoxville. Photos by Wallace Bowden

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

For one, running is art.

For the other, it’s more the art of hard work.

Delaney Markham and David Nagle got there by different paths, but both will run at the front of history-making teams when the Maryville Lady Rebels and Rebels set off in the TSSAA State Cross Country Championships Saturday morning.

“Laney is pure talent,” Maryville coach Landon Harris said. “To me, David is the epitome of all heart.”

Representing Alcoa at the Steeplechase Course in Nashville will be Lady Tornado freshman Kaitlyn Newman and the Tornado boys’ team of Jackson Beason, Jacob Gornto, Nick Holloway, Jonathan Kear, Samir Koko, Kevin Riley and Adam Templin.

Beason ran seventh at the Region 2A-AA championships last week at Victor Ashe Park in Knoxville, the Tornadoes finishing third as a team to reach state behind winner Catholic and runner-up Christian Academy of Knoxville. Newman ran to a ninth place finish in the A-AA girls field.

The Maryville girls and boys  cross country teams both qualified for the state meet in the same year for the first time this season.

The Maryville girls and boys cross country teams both qualified for the state meet in the same year for the first time this season.

Maryville sending both the girls and boys teams to the state meet in the same year is a first for the school, and that strikes Markham just fine.

The Lady Rebel senior was one of four girls at the region meet — encompassing both the A-AA and AAA fields — to run to a national elite, sub-20 minute time. Markham, covering the hilly 5K course in 19 minutes, 40.95 seconds, finished runner up to West’s Megan Murray, who got there in 19:09.55.

Markham was pleased with the result. She was thrilled when freshman Rylee Jorgensen (10th), junior Erin Smith (17th), sophomore Lauren Cole (23rd), junior Presley Walker (48th), freshman Elizabeth Lewis (49th) and junior Grace Avery (63rd) got home with enough points for the Lady Rebels to finish third and qualify for state as a team.

With a season-best time of 18:48.74, set at the prestigious Jesse Owens Invitational in October, Markham qualified for state as an individual a year ago. She all but had to be persuaded to run.

“She actually didn’t want to go,” Harris said.

This year, leading a team to state makes all the difference, Markham said.

“I get most of my motivation from just being around the team,” she said. “If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t run at all. It was exciting to make it (last season), but it’s just not much fun if you’re on your own.”

They’re more than words, Jorgensen said.

“She (Markham) really is a team person,” she said. “When she’s out front, she’s pushing herself for us because she knows we’re pushing for her.”

The Lady Rebels jump for joy after qualifying as a team for state.

The Lady Rebels jump for joy after qualifying as a team for state.

Markham has possessed the talent now full on display almost since she took up the sport. For Nagle, it was more a commitment to finally dig in.

“He’s made a big difference this year,” Harris said. “He made a conscious effort to improve himself.”

The Rebel senior is one of only 22 runners statewide this season to break 16 minutes at 5k, set at the Owens meet. At the hillier Ashe course, he powered home in 16:55.24 to finish 10th. Winner Gashaw Duhamel escaped a tight pack to cross the line in 16:18.55, boding well for Nagle’s chances for a high placing in Nashville. It’s something Nagle himself didn’t see possible prior to the season.

He loved the sport, but his results prior to this season had been underwhelming. Nagle took it upon himself to ensure his senior year would be the best he could produce.

“I was 20 pounds heavier at the start of the season,” he said. “I said, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to have fun.’”

Nagle not only drove himself, he drove his team. Fellow senior Mullin Green wasn’t far back at the AAA region meet in 13th, with senior David Huezo, 15th, sophomore Seth Bowden, 16th, junior Gavin Jones, 18th, senior Matthew Sentell, 21st, and junior Taylor Drake, 28th, indicative of a Maryville team that likes to hunt in a pack.

The stratagem lifted the Rebels to second at the regional meet, a total time of 1 hour, 26 minutes, 8 seconds just back of Oak Ridge’s winning clocking of 1:23:21. Running as a pack at state could easily net the Rebels a place among the state’s elite, and then some.

“I think we have a chance of going top three if we have good day,” Nagle said.

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