BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — It was almost fitting that it took a perfect storm for the McCallie Blue Tornado to win Saturday.
The Chattanooga team -- healthy for the first time all season -- had five top-10 finishes and claimed the Division II-AA state boys' cross country championship Saturday at Percy Warner Park. It was the school's first title since 2006, and it was close -- 34-37 over Brentwood Academy.
Baylor's Simon Holden won the state individual championship, but he was followed by McCallie's Derek Barnes, Ramsay Ritchie, Matthew Jones, Will Moore and Tommy Ellis.
McCallie coach Mike Wood praised Ellis, whom he called the "key to victory." The junior passed two Brentwood Academy runners in the final stretch, which aided the team victory.
"My goal was to stick on Will Moore, but two miles in he started going and I was trying to keep up the pace," Ellis said. "I think seeing those guys in front of me carried me along with them, especially because they're Brentwood Academy runners, and they're huge opponents.
"I was motivated to be right behind my teammates, but I wanted to finish with the pack like my coach stresses."
Wood and the McCallie team had to shake off the effects of a poorly run 2011 race, when they entered as the favorites but finished second.
"We embraced the fact that we didn't run our best race," Wood said. "We all had a job to do, and today everybody did their job. It's difficult to have your top five guys all run well on the same today, and today is the first race we've had all year that we've had our top five guys healthy at the same time."
Baylor's Dillon Clemmer finished 15th, helping his team finish third.
Bradley Central's Harold Smith had the fourth-best area time of the day, placing 14th in the Class AAA race in 16:49.54. East Hamilton's Nick McCormick finished seventh in the Class A/AA race despite battling sickness all week.
"He really wanted to battle for the championship, and I really wanted it for him," East Hamilton coach Kirsten Legac said. "It's unfortunate, but these things happen and you have to take them in stride."
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