The Swain girls’ cross country team claimed the Smoky Mountain Conference championship and the boys finished in second as both teams secured berths in the field of Saturday’s regional meet at Kituwah Mound last Wednesday, Jan. 6.
Gracie Monteith was the individual conference champion on the girls’ side, coming across first with a time of 20:28.66, a personal best.
“She just looked so good at the end. Super confident, did not give up, very consistent on her time,” said Coach Jennifer Chatham. “It was awesome.”
Emily Ulaner was fourth overall with a time of 22:11.45. Freshman Lily Bjerkness was next in for Swain at 22:22.40. Laiken Harvey recorded a personal best time of 23:54.43 to finish 12th overall. Swain finished 28 points ahead of second-place Hayesville.
On the boys’ side, Austin SanSouci was the top Swain runner and third overall with a time of 17:37.71. The team was without star freshman Connor Brown for the race, but Brown will rejoin the team in time for regionals.
“This race was insane,” Chatham said. “We knew we were missing our number two boy. But, for every runner that rounded the corner, I tried to stand in the field before the final stretch just so I could push them to finish strong... I was shocked every time someone came around the corner.”
After SanSouci, Swain also placed the number seven, eight, and nine runners in Kane Jones, Connor Lambert and Dhruv Senghani. Jones notched a personal-best time of 17:58.45.
“To have a freshman running a 17-something is pretty spectacular,” Chatham said of Jones. “He wasn’t even a big competitor last year as a middle school runner, he just came and dedicated his whole summer and fall to the sport. He just loves it. It was one of his biggest goals to hit a 17 and he did and it was just unreal.”
Senghani’s time of 18:31.88 was a 45-second improvement on his previous best time.
“I have never screamed so hard,” said Chatham of Senghani’s finish. “The second I saw Dhruv right behind Connor Lambert I was just going insane. I could not talk the next day at all because I had screamed so hard.”
Swain finished just four points behind Murphy for the conference championship, but closed the game after a seven-point margin in the previous week’s race, also at Kituwah.