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Eastside ready, set to go run at state

COVINGTON -- Nervous? Who's nervous?

Not Eastside's cross county team. Just because this is the first time in school history that both squads have made it to state and they have never competed in an event with 160 teams watching is nothing to be nervous about.

All five classifications, eight regions, four teams from each region will meet up in Carrollton for the state finals on Saturday with Class AAA boys running at 1 p.m. and the girls running at 1:30.

"They've never seen anything like that this year so when they get there they'll be a little anxious but that will be good for them. There's people lined along the course and it'll be an exciting feeling since everyone is excited about cross country," said Eastside head coach Leah Carlisle.

"I tell them that before they shoot the gun to take a deep breath and think about what they're going to do so they don't start off too fast. It's hard at Carrollton because they have 200 meters and they just sprint so it's hard not to get caught up in that."

Carlisle said that the secret to doing well at Carrollton is to get to the almost 90-degree turn early.

Both teams have high expectations for the race. They're not going crazy and saying they're going to win state, all they want to do is finish in the upper half of their classification. Pretty lofty goals considering that the boys finished 17th at state last year and the girls were last in the region meet and never went to state. One way to do that is by having everyone achieve their goal of beating their personal record.

"They're very passionate about doing their best. I feel like they know what they're capable of so the pressure is off a little bit in terms of we know we're not going to win the state championship. We're just trying to make a better name for ourselves than we did last year," Carlisle said.

"That's a big improvement from last year. We added some really good runners so it'll be interesting to see how we do against other teams in the state."

Representing the boys are Michael Johnson-Weeks, Ryan Farrow, Joey Ellwanger, Austin Knight, Conner Haler, Kyle Yeomans and Dustin Gentis. Running for the girls will be Rhodelle Lewis, Blakely Smith, Sarah Gaddis, Taylor Jones, Ashley Larrimore, Melissa Howard and Eastside record holder Naomi Denby. After setting the record in last year's Region 4-AAA meet, Denby broke her record this season with a time of 21 minutes, 51 seconds.

"It's a big deal that the girls and boys made it to state. It's really cool that I was able to help the girls get there," Denby said. "I want to try and get the same (time) as the last time and keep it up to the end and help the overall team so we look good at state."

"We achieved our goal at region," said Carlisle about sending both squads to state. "The faculty at Eastside and the students were very supportive of us because it was a big deal and it had never happened before."