Watkins, Fears lead Forrest to state championship threshold

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Forrest High School has made a name for itself in the state's athletic arenas, winning three state championships over the past three years, beginning with their first in 2006 when the Lady Rockets re-arranged the prep basketball map with their incredible journey, beating powerhouse Jackson County in overtime to bring the Gold Ball to Chapel Hill.

Last year, the school added two more titles, starting in November when Billy Bateman and the Forrest Band of Blue cashed in on years of hard work to claim the 2007 Division I State Championship.

At the Spring Fling, Gaby Bussell graduated on the field in Murfreesboro, but not before leading her Lady Rockets to the Class A softball title over Trinity Christian, destroying a 27-year stranglehold by private school entities.

Now, Forrest is on the threshold of winning not one, but possibly three more, this time in a sport that, over the years, had taken a backseat to the major prep sports at the school, cross-country.

Forrest senior Quinton Watkins has been steadily running to the top of sport for three years now and he reached the second highest mark last week to claim the Region 6A/AA boys individual cross country title at Hampshire High School in Maury County, breaking the tape 15-seconds ahead of Middle Tennessee Christian's Heath Watson.

Watkins' finish, and a strong and consistent effort by the rest of his teammates, earned the Rockets' boys squad a third place region finish and their second consecutive berth in the TSSAA State Tournament this Saturday in Nashville.

"It was an exhilarating feeling,"said Watkins. "I felt like if I was going to do it right, I had to finish in first place for the team."

The individual title was the first in cross country for Forrest, but that was matched when eighth grade sensation Ashley Fears shocked everyone with a fifth place finish to go along with sixth from Christina Curtner and tenth by Lorrie Logue to easily win the girls team title, blowing past second place Spring Hill by 27 points, 47-74.

"This is good news for Forrest and makes a good name for our runners," said head coach Jill Russell. "Cross country is a minor sport, but our team has come a long way. We prepare just as hard as any of the other sports."

Team captain Kitt McCone, a four-year starter for Russell said, "This is the most amazing thing that has happened to me in my high school career. We definitely want to be recognized as a strong group. We may not be the biggest school when it comes to actual numbers, but when it comes to sports here at Forrest, we are bigger than most of them in heart and spirit."

Fears, the only middle school runner on the team and the first eighth grader to make the squad was unfazed with her unlikely finish and said, "People have always told me I could run good. I did not do anything unusual. I just kept running. I starting out just going to every practice and ended up making the team."

Watkins, not fully satisfied with the region title and wanting more said, "I am ready to run and I am ready to win. I really want to beat that number one guy from Macon County (Brandon Mahaney)."

Watkins, who ran a 17:32.50 last year at the state tournament for a 22-place finish, has his work cut for him to best Mahoney's title winning time of 16:24.48.

Cut-Line (Photo by Anthony S. Puca)

Quinton Watkins, left, wearing the 1st place medal and holding the 3rd place boys team plaque stands with FHS coach Jill Russell, holding the girls Region Championship plaque.