Southwestern’s Jill Collier has been winning elementary school cross country races since she was in the second grade.

Now a seventh grader at Oak Hill Middle School, the 4’6” Collier is now winning high school cross country races after she ran away the the girls varsity title in the Roll Back Invitational at G.E. Field on Saturday.

Collier covered the 3200-meter course in 13:04 and outdistanced her nearest competitor by nearly 100 meters.

“I caught up with the leaders by the half-mile mark and then I made my move to take the lead going into the backfield,” 12-year-old Collier explained. “I was a little surprised I won by so much. I looked back a couple of times expecting someone to challenge me for the lead.”

That challenge never came, as Collier continued her G.E. Field win streak — which dates back to her third-grade year. Collier, who challenged for elementary state cross country titles over the past two years, is excited about moving up to the high school level this season.

“I get along with all the girls on the varsity team,” Collier said. “I felt so much pressure to have to win all the time when I ran in the elementary races. Now, I am not expected to win all the time, and all I can do is run my best.”

Collier helped lead a young Lady Warrior cross country squad to win girls team title in Saturday’s Roll Back Invitational. Emily Belwood (freshman) finished fourth, Faith Carr (freshman) finished 10th and Katie Goff (sixth-grader) finished 11th.

“I am excited about Jill’s win, she is looking really strong and is off to a great start,” Lady Warrior coach Jill Goff said. “We talked about the race, not to be stressed out, just run because that is what you love to do. She did just that.”

“Jill has good work ethics, she knows you have to work hard at every practice if you want to improve,” Goff added.

Somerset junior Lauren Cornett finished second with a time of 13:27, while Pulaski freshman Paige Ingram finished sixth.

The Lady Warriors won the girls team title with 29 points and Somerset finished third with 72 points.

Paced by a third place finish by Brandon Smiley and a fourth place finish by Michael Eads, the Pulaski harriers came away with the boys team title. Pulaski won with 48 points, Southwestern finished second with 68 points and Somerset finished fourth with 101 points.

“Brandon Smiley and Michael Eads stepped up and led our team just like we were hoping,” Pulaski coach Byron Childers said. “They are both competitive, veteran runners who will give you 110 percent every meet.”

While two juniors, Smiley and Eads, led the way for the Maroons, it was three eighth-graders who gave Pulaski their scoring punch in the middle of their line-up. Morgan Stevens and Mason Stevens placed 10th and 11th, respectively, with almost identical times. Mason Blevins finished 18th.

“We were very proud of our young kids today,” Childers said. “You can't say enough about Mason Stevens, Morgan Stevens and Mason Blevins. All three of them may be in 8th grade, but they proved today that they are capable of running with some very good high school runners. They made the difference for us today.”

Somerset was led by sophomore Austin Adams’ sixth place finish, while Southwestern was led by sophomore Michael Tounge’s seventh place finish.

Pulaski seventh-graders Sarah Strehl and Matthew Crawford won the middle school races, as Pulaski claimed both middle school team titles.

Pulaski fifth-grader Alyssa Hyden won the girls elementary race, while Southwestern third-grader Matthew Jones won the boys elementary race. Pulaski claimed both of the elementary team titles.


Coaches’ comments: Pulaski boys coach Byron Childers — “We were very encouraged with Jared Burgett. We knew he was an outstanding soccer player, but he came out today and ran a great race. He will be a big asset for us come region time.

Senior George Lee keeps getting better in practice everyday. He is a good athlete who should improve each meet.

Our middle school team picked right up where it left off last season. Coach Evans does such a good job with them. They were missing their top 5 runners in the race and still managed to run very well. Matt Crawford continues to get better every season. He is quite an athlete. Those other boys also picked up the slack and ran very well.

Congratulations to Coach Jenkins and Coach Thomas on their elementary victory as well.”

Pulaski girls coach Many Jones — “We were unable to field a varsity team due to some injuries right now but out of this I saw a lot of positive things today that we can build upon as the season progresses. Paige Ingram has really been working hard in the off season and putting in some really good practices, I would have liked to have seen her closer to the front competing for the win, which she is perfectly capable of doing, but it is the first meet of the season and I think she will keep getting better each week. Raegan Ruby was very close to Paige today which is a huge improvement from last year, this is what we need for us to be successful is for Paige and Raegan to run as close together as possible, all Raegan is lacking is confidence but I think she will find the confidence as the season progresses. Sophomore Makayla Sidwell who missed all of spring track season due to a leg injury finished in 14th place with a time of 14:52. Makayla looked very good today in her first meet back since last January I think before the season is over she will be back to her normal form.

In the girls middle School race 7th grader Sarah Strehl won her first race of the season after being sick with mono the last couple of weeks. I was very impressed with Sarah today she competed hard the whole way, never giving up and won her first race back after being sick. The future of our program looks very bright with these young girls who push themselves everyday in practice.

In the girls Elementary race Lady Maroons picked up where they left off last season with a first place winning the elem. division with total of 18 points. Coach Nancy New does such a wonderful job with these little girls, our numbers keep growing and that has everything to do with her. She is very positive and works very well with these girls. We hope to see more finished like they had today as the season progresses.

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