The Bartlett Panthers finished out the 2017 Cross Country Season with a Region 8 Championship and a 4th place finish in the Large Division AAA State Championship. The Region Championship was Bartlett’s second in a row and its state finish, which improved upon last year’s 5th place finish, was the best finish by a Memphis area team since 2011. The team is living up to the phrase that they’ve coined, “Bartlett’s Gaining, Baby!”
Reorganized prior to the 2017 season, the new Region 8 now contains the top cross country teams in Memphis. In the new region, six schools have their own multi-year streak of state qualifications as a team. Bartlett kept its streak alive through a strong team performance, which in cross country, takes into account the places of the team’s top 5 runners. Bartlett’s top three runners, Travis Jones (So.), Avery Wood (Sr.) and Brendan Hill (Sr.) captured 4th, 5th, and 6th places in the race, while Robert Dawson (Fr.) finished in 11th place. If there was one key to Bartlett’s Region victory, it was Bartlett’s fifth runner, Rylee Hertter (So.). In the cold and pouring rain, Rylee Hertter ran the fastest race of his career and beat his time from last year by one minute and 13 seconds. This put him (Bartlett’s fifth runner) ahead of every other team’s fourth runner. The final standings were Bartlett 1st, Collierville 2nd, and Houston 3rd. Bolton’s streak of 9, Arlington’s streak of 8, and Germantown’s streak of 6 consecutive State appearances came to an end in the puddles and mud that night.
The top 24 teams from across Tennessee converged upon Percy Warner Park in Nashville on Saturday, November 4th for the State AAA Cross Country Championship. 168 team runners lined up with 31 individual qualifiers to compete against the best in Tennessee. As the race developed, it was evident that the team competition was going to be close and every place (point) picked up or lost was going to be significant. Again, Bartlett’s top 3 runners were Travis Jones, Avery Wood, and Brendan Hill in 28th, 30th, and 32nd places. Bartlett’s fourth and fifth runners were Robert Dawson and Rylee Hertter in 41st and 76th places. A few things stood out in Bartlett’s capture of the 4th place team finish. One was Bartlett’s fourth finisher, Robert Dawson, finishing ahead of every other team’s fourth place finisher (except for the winning team’s). The second was the sprint at the end in which Bartlett runners picked up key points (lowering their score). After the sprint, Bartlett’s final score earning 4th place was 207, beating Collierville (5th with 209), Henry County (6th with 209), Ravenwood (7th with 210), and Oak Ridge (8th with 211).
There are a total of seven runners on a cross country team. Barltett’s sixth and seventh runners in both the Regional Championship and the State Championship were Max Putnam (Fr.) and Andrew Burke (So.). In cross country, the runner that finishes sixth is counted on for a potential tie-breaker and both the sixth and seventh finishers are relied upon for a back-up to any one of the top five. In these races, Andrew was asked to run with Rylee as long as possible to provide support to him and Max provided the back-up. The team overcame a lot of adversity this year. Most significantly was the loss of Jackson Williams (So.) to injury early in the year. Jackson proved to be a freshman ‘phenom’ last year and was Bartlett’s fastest returning runner. He was consistently one of the top two freshmen in Tennessee last year. He helped the team pull together in spite of his not being able to compete this year.
The Bartlett Cross Country Team trains year-round and regularly runs twice a day on its quest for excellence. The team’s coach, Coach Gardner, said, “Not only are members of the cross country team recognized for their commitment and hard work in distance running, but they are regularly recognized by teachers as being engaged and model students. My main focus is to use distance running to develop strong leadership skills that will pay off the rest of their lives.” To learn more about Bartlett’s boy distance runners, go to bartlettcrosscountry.com.