The Saturday Night Lights offers a different cross country environment with its late start time of 9:45 p.m. So Middletown High School senior Conant Smith decided to try something different too.
He tried to see if he could leave the competition in the dark.
Normally Smith’s plan is to hang with the leaders and get a feel for the race. Saturday on Centerville’s’s 3.1-mile cross country course, Smith sprinted to the lead early. He won the boys Championship race in 15:08, just shy of the 15:05 course record set by Thomas Worthington’s Arjun Jha in 2016.
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“I have a lot of family and friends coming to see me tonight, so I wanted to leave it on the course for them,” Smith said. “For the start I wanted to go from the gun. I didn’t care who was leading. Normally I go after the leader, see how it goes the first mile and try to hammer it from there. Tonight I went straight from the gun to see if I could do it myself.”
No one attempted to stay with Smith, who on Wednesday announced his commitment to run for Arizona State University next season.
Austin Mathews of Kentucky’s Paul Dunbar finished second in 15:19.2 and Centerville’s Ben Burkett was third in 15:341.4.
“That was the plan. Get out hard and see what happens,” Middletown coach David Fultz said. “We wanted to run as close to 15 minutes as we could. We’re happy. Things are good.”
The event featured more than 4,100 high school and middle school runners competing in 13 races.
The course looped runners into Centerville’s football stadium three times — giving the spectators packing the bleachers an opportunity to follow the race — and also sent them on a mowed path through tall grass fields and through a tree line. All with limited lighting provided by portable generators.
“I knew (breaking the record) was going to be tough, but I was just trying to kick it for a good race,” Smith said. “This is so fun and so different. I just loved the atmosphere tonight. Tonight is just a fun race to come to and have a good time doing it.”
In the boys Varsity A race, Monroe finished 14th out of 33 teams. Christian Leach stayed with the front runners through the first mile, but struggled in the final mile and dropped 15 places to finish in 16:49.2.
His goal was to break into the 16:20s, but Leach said his training has been focusing more on distance than speed workouts, which would favor Centerville’s fast course.
“I made it to the two-mile and coming around the second hill the second time, I feel like I haven’t been hitting those times recently,” Leach said. “I have to get my legs back again.”
Teammate Andy Garver finished 23rd in 16:57.4.
“We’ve improved a lot. Just trying to get that No. 5 closer and trying to get everyone better,” Leach said. “We’re trying to get everyone faster. That’s the goal.”
In the girls Varsity A race, Monroe finished 29th out of 47 teams. Emily McMurry finished 15th overall (out of 393 runners) in 19:54.9
Hamilton’s girls team finished 45th out of 47 teams in the Varsity A race. Taniah Richard led the Big Blue in 23:28.3 for 250th place.
The Big Blue boys finished 30th out of 36 teams in the Varsity B race. Austin Ryan finished 86th (out of 317 runners) in 18:45.5 to pace HHS.