KCHS runner Keegan Smith wins state title

The Fighting Irish team finishes fifth in the cross country championships, ‘as well as we possibly could’     

By Dan McWilliams

Knoxville Catholic High School freshman Keegan Smith continued his outstanding running career by winning the Division II, Class AA state title in his first appearance in the championship meet Nov. 5 at Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville.

Keegan Smith stands with KCHS head coach Sean O’Neil and assistant coach Erin Chady.

Keegan, who recently set a national freshman record with his 5K time, won the state meet 5K in a time of 15 minutes, 29.09 seconds. He finished 24.28 seconds in front of runner-up Luke Thompson of Brentwood Academy.

Keegan’s time was also the third fastest across all state competitions, including the Division I, Class A-AA meet, the Division I, Class AAA meet, and the Division II, Class A meet.

Teammate Spencer Stovall, a senior, placed 15th in the state meet in a time of 16:34.14 and earned an All-State medal alongside Keegan.

As a team, the KCHS boys placed fifth in the state.

“The guys had a great season, and we finished up by running about as well as we possibly could have to earn a fifth-place team finish at the state championships,” Knoxville Catholic cross country head coach Sean O’Neil said.

“Keegan had a fantastic race. He took control from the start, ran by himself the entire time, and really made a statement with his win. It is impressive for a freshman to crack the top 10 at the state meet, but winning is almost unheard of. Keegan was the favorite coming in, and he handled that pressure well and lived up to all the hype. Senior Spencer Stovall finished out his cross country career at Catholic by earning All-State honors with a hard-fought 15th-place finish.”

Freshman Keegan Smith (left) and senior Spencer Stovall pose with their medals at the state cross country meet.

Freshman Tony Ortega finished in 26th place for the KCHS boys. Evan Deichert, a junior, and Alonso Vela, a sophomore, placed 44th and 46th, respectively. Freshman Gonzalo Vela finished 56th, and sophomore Dominic Spezia came in 84th place for the Fighting Irish.

For the KCHS girls team, freshman Eileen Loebner finished the state 5K in a time of 20:37.00, good for 23rd place. Teammate Elaina Daddabbo, a junior, placed 35th in a time of 21:27.30. Also placing for the Lady Irish was senior Tiffany Vo in 97th.

“The girls had a few unfortunate injuries and illnesses late in the season, but the ones we had race at the state meet ran well,” Mr. O’Neil said.

The KCHS teams are young and return several runners for next season.

“It’s been a great season for the Irish cross country teams . . . and with freshmen leading the way for both teams, the future looks bright,” Mr. O’Neil said.

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