Even in limited meets during the 2012 cross country season, McMinn County's Haley Ward has proven that there is just a separation between her and other area runners. Thursday afternoon at the Front Runner Athletics meet at Baylor, that separation was about 45 seconds.
Ward claimed her second victory in her third meet of the season, completing the five-kilometer course in 19 minutes, 17.61 seconds. It was a warmup for region meets next Thursday for public schools, followed by the state meet at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.
The following week will have the Georgia state races in Carrollton and the National Association of Christian Athletes meet at Fort Bluff near Dayton.
Baylor's Simon Holden won the boys' meet Thursday in 16:06.36, while Baylor's girls and McCallie claimed the team titles.
"I was pleased that I got the win, but I'm going to have to run a lot faster to win the state meet," said Ward, also a soccer player who won the 2011 Class AAA individual title. "I tried to go out a little slower than I normally do, which was a change, and go faster towards the end.
"I'm happy with the win, but not my time."
Baylor had the fifth through seventh-best girls' times to claim a 53-68 win over Heritage. Madalyn Garland, who finished second, led Rhea County to a third-place finish, and the home school team was fourth.
"It was a solid performance," Baylor coach Heather Ott said. "We had some bumpy moments, but we're blessed to have depth. Rachel Schatzman had a great race for us."
Schatzman, normally the Lady Red Raiders' No. 7 runner, posted the team's fourth-best time and was 17th overall.
McCallie was dominant in the boys' race, claiming five of the top 12 slots for a 34-point total. Baylor finished second with 87 points.
"I thought we did great today," McCallie coach Mike Wood said. "I was really impressed by Simon; we tried to key on him during the race, but he ran well. Today's an important meet to gauge where you are as a team. We still have some adjustments to make, but we've said we're going to have fun this season, and winning is fun."