Although there was no on-course competition between the East Hamilton and Signal Mountain boys' cross country teams Thursday, there was no denying that the real battle was between them.
Both the Hurricanes and Eagles won their respective region meets, East Hamilton in 3-A/AA and Signal in 4-A/AA. In each region, the top three teams and the top 10 individuals qualified for next Saturday's state meet at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.
Arts & Sciences and Chattanooga Christian won the girls' meets. Other team state qualifiers were Polk County's and East Hamilton's girls in 3-A/AA and the Signal and Notre Dame girls in 4-A/AA. Central Magnet's (Murfreesboro) and Chattanooga Christian's boys also will represent 4-A/AA, and the Red Bank and Arts & Sciences boys qualified from 3-A/AA. Collegedale Academy technically placed third, but CSAS got bumped up because of the Eagles' inability to compete in the state meet.
Central's Nathaniel Nalley and Boyd-Buchanan's Kevin Warren also qualified for the state race in place of Collegedale's Seth Ruhling and Dillan Hamilton.
Individual winners Thursday were East Hamilton's Nick McCormick, Signal's Matthew Marshall, CSAS's Janelle Wigal and Central Magnet's Claudia Smith.
McCormick placed third in last season's region meet, and Marshall was second.
"I felt good the entire time, but I started to get a little tired close to the end," Marshall said. "I took the lead at the three-quarter-mile mark and just ran. I'm always afraid that somebody is going to catch me, so I try to build a lead so no one can catch me."
East Hamilton coach Kirsten Legac and McCormick spent some time comparing the times of the two schools once they were posted, to see how they fared against their chief rival locally.
"I knew that we would be strong as a team today, and I thought the guys really stepped up to the challenge," Legac said. "All of these guys have earned this. We're ready to match up at state and see how we're able to do up there next week."
Signal placed third last season, while the Hurricanes were ninth.
CSAS's Smith was never really threatened in her race, claiming her first region title by 34 seconds.
"I felt pretty good out there today," she said. "My time was a little slower than I would have liked, but one of my goals was to win, so I was able to get that."