Morris, Williams make most of proving ground

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COLUMBIA -- The Bob Jenkins Coaches Classic brings together runners of all classes, giving those from the smallest a chance to test themselves.

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On Saturday at Sandhills Research Center, two competitors from smaller schools ran away from the rest to win the international races: Logan Morris of SCISA member Spartanburg Christian Academy and Micah Williams of Class A Greer Middle College.
Morris, a junior who won the event in 2011 and 2012 and was runner-up last year, finished in 18:20. Riverside's Cate Ambrose was second in 18:56.

"I was kind of behind in my training," Morris said, "so to come and run an 18:20, I was like, 'Yes! This is amazing!' I had a rough week last week, so it was a great race.

Morris capitalized on a chance at redemption after struggling to a 10th-place finish at the Eye Opener in 19:31.

"Everybody goes out fast here," Morris said. "It's an uphill start. It was hard to get out of the start, and I was kind of worried about getting pushed back, because I didn't want to start out too fast. So I got to about the half-mile, and I had caught back up to the lead group, so I was like, 'All right, I'm just going to stay right here with them and run behind them for a little bit.'

"Then I got to about the thousand meters, and I was like,' No, I think I'm going to go for it.' So I passed the lead group at a thousand meters, and from then on it was just go and make the gap bigger and run as fast as I can. It was a good race, I pushed through it and it was awesome."

Ambrose led the usual barrage of Riverside runners near the front. Teammates Abigail Smith (18:49), Ashley Fallow (18:56) and Carter Marchbanks (19:18) were fourth, fifth and eighth, respectively, for the Warriors, who finished with 48 points.

Riverside coach Eric Cummings said his runners' times were both a big improvement from the previous week and a lot faster than where they were at this time last year.

"I'm hoping this is good enough that it will move us from 14th into that top 10 database (of the MileSplit Network)," Cummings said. "But there's a lot of fast races this weekend across the nation, so we'll have to wait and see Monday morning where we sit."
Eastside won a tie-breaker with Dutch Fork to take second place after both wound up with 126.

In the boys international race, Williams finished in a personal-best time of 15 minutes, 28 seconds. Spartanburg's Myers McKinney was the runner-up in 15:42.

"At about a mile and a half, I was in fifth, I think, and I didn't think I was going to be able to do it," Williams said. "But I knew that going up the hill, I had to be strong, and so coming up the hill was where I really kicked and I tried. I moved up to first, and then after that, I just tried to hold it. My legs were tingling, my arms were tingling, but I just tried to keep going straight."

The hill, he reiterated, was the key.

"I thought if I could get to the top of the hill and take 20 hard steps, maybe that would discourage the other guys," Williams said. "If I could just take 20 hard steps and take a big lead and then maybe I could keep it from there. That was my intention."
Among the others Williams managed to hold off were Hilton Head's Cisco Ferre (16:02) and Ben Gilman (16:06), who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, but the two did lead the Seahawks to the team championship. Hilton Head had 89 points. Wando was second with 101.

"For every one of these kids on every team, it was a rough day to run -- probably close to 90 degrees and humidity," Hilton Head coach Bill Wrightson said. "I think being from the Lowcountry probably helps us a little bit, because we have hotter temperatures and more humidity than these guys have up here.

"But it was tough. I know our kids were hoping to go faster. But you've got to take the conditions into account. I think they ran extremely well. I think the fact that we finished first relative to what everybody else did means we did pretty well. I think they pushed themselves to their limits and probably did as well as they could do on a day like this."

Because of lightning, the first race of the day was moved back an hour. The delay, combined with the humidity following an early rain, created the challenging conditions.

Belton-Honea Path senior Carlos Oliver finished first in the championship boys race in 16:45, and Bishop England won the team competition with 176 points.

In the girls championship race, the winners were Pinewood Prep freshman Maryah Nasir with a time of 19:11 and Ashley Hall with 138 points.