published Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

McMinn County soccer star Haley Ward is area's top runner

Hayley Ward competes during the Front Runner City Cross Country Championships at Baylor School on Monday. Ward won finishing with 19:26:99.
Hayley Ward competes during the Front Runner City Cross Country Championships at Baylor School on Monday. Ward won finishing with 19:26:99.
Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Simon Holden of Baylor School takes off with the rest of the boys varsity runners in the Front Runner City Cross Country Championship at Baylor School Monday. Holden took first place in the Boys Varsity Race and Hayley Ward of McMinn County High School took first place for the Girls Varsity race.
    Photo by Alex Washburn.
    enlarge photo

At some point, Haley Ward might have to decide whether she wants to be a McMinn County soccer player or cross country runner. It's a decision nobody wants to make -- particularly Ward, considering the seasons she's having in both.

Ward won the Front Runner City Cross Country Championships on Monday at Baylor School, covering the five-kilometer event in 19 minutes, 26.99 seconds. Baylor's Simon Holden won the boys' race in 16:41.57. Team titles went to McCallie and the Baylor girls.

The individual winners also were named runners of the year for the Chattanooga Cross Country League, while the team awards went to the Signal Mountain boys and the Heritage girls, who won an extremely tight contest against the Home School squad.

Ward also is the soccer Lady Cherokees' leading scorer with 19 goals. The soccer Region 3-AAA final is set for Oct. 27, the same day as the region cross country meet in Sparta. For now, though, she doesn't want to think about picking one over the other.

"I think this is my best race of the year," she said. "I wanted to break 19:30 -- I've been peaking and I want to have my best time at the state meet. I started out kind of slow, but then I got tired of that and decided to pick up my pace and run faster. That's when I broke away."

Cleveland's Beka Day finished second at 20:18.58, pushing Ward until the final half of the race.

"I haven't had someone push me that hard all season," Ward said.

Holden's sixth victory of the season came on his home course, continuing a recent trend of Baylor runners winning the Front Runner started by Bill Matthews and Brandon Lord, both of whom now run for the University of Georgia.

"I decided to run on the heels of the guys in front until towards the end; then I had my kick," Holden said. "I didn't try to take it at the beginning."

Polk County's Patrick Shultz was second, and three McCallie runners -- Matthew Jones, Ramsay Ritchie and Derek Barnes -- completed the top five.

"My only goal was to win today," Holden said. "As far as how I ran, I just did what I had to do."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports.

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