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Harpeth Hall cross country team repeats as state champion

Harpeth Hall cross country team repeats as state champion
Harpeth Hall cross country team repeats as state champion
Harpeth Hall senior is all smiles holding the state cross country championship trophy

The Harpeth Hall cross country team is the repeat state champion. 

Led by the blazing speed of senior Bella Guillamondegui, the Bears burst through a competitive field at Sanders Ferry Park on Thursday to earn their second-consecutive Division II-AA state cross country title. All seven of the Harpeth Hall runners finished in the top 30 to secure the team win.

With this year’s title, Harpeth Hall now has a historic 14 state cross country championships — expanding on its TSSAA state record for the most won by any school, boys or girls, in the sport.

"I thought it was going to be a nail-biter," said TSSAA Coach of the Year Jenny Jervis, a Harpeth Hall world language teacher and department chair who has served as cross country’s head coach for 10 years. "But the girls crushed it."

The trophy underscores the strength of the entire Harpeth Hall running program, which earlier this year celebrated by winning the 5th and 6th grade HVAC Jr. title and the 7th and 8th HVAC title, paving the way for the future. Thursday’s cross country title also builds off a remarkable athletic showing during the 2021-2022 school year when — for the first time in school history — Harpeth Hall won five state titles with victories in soccer, cross country, riflery, lacrosse, and track and field.

"Winning last year, the girls were all the more motivated," Coach Jervis said. "You can get complacent, but they didn't. Many of the girls trained and competed in the Eastbay event over Thanksgiving, and that yearlong commitment makes a difference.

The Harpeth Hall cross country team poses with the trophy after claiming the 2022 Division II-AA state championship.

"To repeat as champions is a hard endeavor. People tell you that, but you don't really know it until you try to do it again. To win so definitively was the cherry on top."

With their Harpeth Hall classmates pouring off the spirit bus and rushing to the start line just before the race began, enthusiasm was at a high when the starting gun fired. That energy carried through the race.

Bella’s time of 17:54 was nearly 30 seconds faster than her 2021 finish in the 5,000-meter race, winning her the individual Division II-AA state championship. Along with Bella’s first-place finish, sophomore Annamaria Bacchetta (5th), sophomore Lily Bowen (7th), freshman Lula Lowrance (14th), freshman Suki Junge (24th), sophomore Lucy Farringer (27th), and junior Elizabeth John (30th) rounded out Harpeth Hall’s successful day.

Coach Jervis admitted she was "sleepless" the night before the race, concerned over lingering illness affecting several of the team's top runners. That led to some tough decisions on race morning with a few last-minute substitutions.

"Our team is so deep it was really a difficult choice who would be the next person up," Coach Jervis said. 

Even in unexpected circumstances, the Bears persevered pushing together to the finish line to repeat as state champions. In the year's most important race, Suki dropped more than 20 seconds off her personal best, Lula finished 10 seconds faster than her previous PR, Annamaria continued to show herself as a "savvy runner who knows herself well and knows when to turn on the guns," and Elizabeth, Lucy, and Lily pushed valiantly ahead. The entire team, Coach Jervis said, brought spirit and heart to the "squad" as it is affectionately called by Lily, who also celebrated a 6-second PR. 

“Our girls showed up in true Harpeth Hall fashion — ready to go and ready to cheer,” Director of Athletics Kylene Lee said of Thursday’s victory. “It was a true team effort, and I couldn’t be more proud of this team and these coaches.”

HARPETH HALL STATE CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2011, 2014, 2021, 2022

The 2022 Harpeth Hall cross country team.
The Harpeth Hall cross country team competes in a meet on Sept. 13, 2022.