BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Zach Otey went to the state cross country meet last season to watch former Bland County standout Josh Goodman perform at the highest level of the sport.
He would like to run in the race this time.
“Zach is running really well,” Graham cross country coach Al MacNaughton said. “This is a good time on this course.”
Real good. Otey, a senior at Bland County, broke the course record during the first of two home meets for Graham this season on a warm Thursday afternoon at Graham Recreation Park.
“This is a challenging course, it has a couple of big hills in it, what also slows it down is there are a lot of sharp turns which sort of slows the guys down,” MacNaughton said. “Zach is running really well, he made a course record on this course.”
Otey ran the 3.1 mile course, which includes a pair of steep inclines and sharp turns in a time of 18:15, finishing ahead of Graham’s Brandon Carroll, who finished at 18:44.
“Yes, I am,” said Otey, of his time, “because the course was rough with the hills.”
In his sixth year as a member of the Bland County program, Otey is eyeing the Conference 45 meet in late October, followed by the 1A meet, and hopefully a berth in the Group A state event.
“I think I will be all right in the conference meet, but the sectional meet is what I am training for, and the state,” Otey said.
He could have company. The Bland County boys program placed first in the Graham meet, with five runners finishing among the top nine for 22 points. The G-Men were second with 41, followed by Bluefield with 77. Tazewell also participated, but didn’t have enough for a team score.
Otey was joined among the top five Bland runners by Christian Boyd (3rd, 18:47), Jacob Cross (4th, 19:05), Jonah Miller (7th, 20:58) and Jacob Morehead (9th, 22:04).
“We were hoping to be a little closer to Bland, but they have really improved here in the last three weeks and I think we are improving too,” MacNaughton said. “I thought we would be a little closer to them today, but that just shows how much they have improved.”
Following Otey in second place in 18:44 was Brandon Carroll of Graham, which had three runners in the top eight, while the top female runner, Kristen Compton of Graham, finished 10th with a time of 22:07.
Carroll was able to squeak past Boyd to take second place. Freshman Michael Franklin (19:33) placed fifth for Graham, while the G-Men’s Lucas Graham (21:52) was eighth.
“Brandon did really well,” MacNaughton said. “He was kind of battling that kid back and forth all the way.”
Cory Brewster was Tazewell’s top performer, placing sixth in 20:51. Bluefield was paced by Jaray Williams (13th, 23:22) and Beavers’ basketball standouts Michael Yost (15th, 23:47) and Jordan Ponder (28th, 29:27).
Otey has been a part of the Bland County program since seventh grade. Formerly a basketball player, he now sticks with cross country and track.
“I just like the feeling of it when it is the end of the race and you finish first or second, just trying to break your time, and then doing it and people cheering for you,” Otey said.
With Goodman now at Concord, Otey has been trying to take what he learned from him to help him on the trails. He missed the early meets of the year with illness, but has been coming on in recent weeks, placing 14th in a time of 17:38 in a recent meet in Galax.
Otey wouldn’t mind following Goodman’s footsteps on the trails at the next level, perhaps even with the Mountain Lions.
“Keep the right mindset because I used to not have the right mindset,” said Otey, of his improvement, including a fourth place finish last weekend at Concord. “Maybe a little bit bigger (college), but if Concord gives me a good scholarship, I would go there.”
His strategy on this day was to get on top quick, and then stay there. He did, climbing a pair of steep hills before hustling downhill to the finish line.
“I felt pretty comfortable out there,” he said. “I took (the lead) quick today because I knew it would slow down out there and I could get trapped in so I just went ahead and got out quick...
“You can kind of get half way up the (hills) and then you start losing it and then you hit the top and you can fly down the other side.”
While Bland County will compete in the Conference 45 in late-October, Graham is eyeing the Conference 39 meet around the same time in Grundy.
“We have got really good three top runners and then our top girl runner, Kristen Compton, is running really well,” MacNaughton said. “The kids are doing really well. We are getting to the point as we get into October, we are starting into our championship phase so are going to start running a lot more tougher meets...
“I think our boys team has a really good chance of making it to the regional meet and unless something catastrophic happens, Kristen should make it.”
As for possibly joining Otey at the state level, there is still plenty of work left to do.
“Just on her time I think Kristen has a chance to go to state,” MacNaughton said. “The boys, they could do it, but they are going to have to get to the next level to have a shot at it, but that is why we run the races.”
Three middle school runners took part in the event, including Graham’s Garrett Wright (23:55), who placed 16th, and Ben Owens (26:50), who was 25th out of 38 runners.
Bland County seventh grader Joe Sarver placed 19th in 24:23.
at Graham Recreation Park
Boys team scores: Bland County 22, Graham 41, Bluefield 77, Tazewell n/r.
Girls team scores: n/r
Boys individual winner: Zach Otey, Bland County 18:15
Girls individual winner: Kristen Compton, Graham 22:07
1. Zach Otey, Bland County 18:15; 2. Brandon Carroll, Graham 18:44; 3. Christian Boyd, BC 18:47; 4. Jacob Cross, BC 19:05; 5. Michael Franklin, GR 19:33; 6. Cory Brewster, Tazewell 19:33; 7. Jonah Miller, BC 20:58; 8. Lucas Graham, GR 21:52; 9. Jacob Morehead, BC 22:04; 10. Kristen Compton, GR 22:07; 11. Tristan Shelton, BC 22:55; 12. David Harman, BC 22:56; 13. Jaray Williams, Bluefield 23:22; 14. Victor Cuen, GR 23:23; 15. Michael Yost, BF 23:47; 16. Garrett Wright, GR 23:55; 17. Mally Giampacaro, GR 23:56.48; 18; Austin Brown, TZ 23:57.67; 19. Joe Sarver, BC 24:23; 20. Emilee Hackney, TZ 24:32.
21. Josh DeWilde, BC 25:10; 22. Matt Johnston, GR 25:36; 23. Anant Patel, BC 25:48; 24. Ben Carlisle, GR 26:44; 25. Ben Owens, GR 26:50; 26. Anna Mishoe, BC 26:53; 27. Trey Delida, BF 27:41; 28. Jordan Ponder, BF 29:27; 29. 29. Dakota Cline, BF 29:28; 30. Omar Logan, BF 29:29; 31. Juliane Steele, TZ 29:48; 32. Katlyn Hayes, TZ 29:49; 33. Ethan Blankenship, BF 32:19; 34. Tyler Bolen, BF 32:23; 35. Dyon Wright, BF 32:28; 36. Faith Vance, GR 32:54; 37. Emily Carlisle, GR 35:00; 38. Camilla Deeb, BF 35:53.