By Carey Phillips


Smoky Mountain’ men’s and women’s cross country teams finished fifth out of 15 squads in the Watermelon Run held Sept. 4 at the Jackson County Recreation Center.

“It turned out to be one of the largest meets we’ve ever hosted,” Coach Pam Shuler said. “We had around 300 runners.”

It was one of the hottest days of the summer with temperatures in the low 90s.

“It was a fantastic meet despite the extraordinary heat,” she said. “It was a little overwhelming for the kids. Despite the heat, we only had one heat-related issue.”

SM’s Tyler Watterson finished second in the men’s race in 17:21. Completing the Mustangs’ top five were:

Ben Saunooke, 31st, 20:28; Parker Smith, 34th, 20:35; Henry Hanks, 47th, 21:27; and Caleb Phillips, 58th, 22:42.

Hayesville won the meet with 62 points to North Henderson’s 65. Brevard was third at 80, followed by Hendersonville (113) and SM (162).

Lily Buenting led the Lady Mustangs as she was 14th in 23:30. Rounding out SM’s top five were:

Anna Morgan, 24th, 24:20; Lucy Morgan, 29th, 24:48; Becky Pechmann, 39th 25:43; and Ashton Buchanan, 61st, 27:53.

Brevard easily won the women’s meet with 35 points. Tuscola was second with 80, followed by Hendersonville (83), Hayesville (114) and SM (151).

“We had tremendous improvement,” Shuler said. “Most of our runners improved their times anywhere from two to four minutes. If we hadn’t had such a hot day, I think we would have shown even more improvement.”

She said Watterson’s time was better than any he posted last season. The coach added that she is pleased with the performance of Buenting, a freshman, who she said is already becoming a strong runner.

Shuler expressed appreciation to Abigail Clayton, Connie Haire, Anne Collins, C&C Produce, River’s Edge Market and parents of runners for providing watermelons for the runners after the race.