This time Garrett Carmichael won the battle. Maybe not the race, but definitely the battle.
The Ensworth School senior controlled his nerves well enough to finish second Saturday at the Division II Class AA boys state championship meet at the Steeplechase Course at Percy Warner Park. And that wasn’t even Carmichael’s best effort.
The 5-foot-10, 140-pound Carmichael finished in 16 minutes and 29 seconds. That is more than 30 seconds slower than his winning time of 15:58 — a personal best — on the same course at the Nashville Metro Championships two weeks ago.
Still, it was a big improvement on the state stage for the four-time state qualifier, whose previous best mark was 20th last year.
“The first three years at state it has been like one of my worst races every year,” said Carmichael, who helped the Tigers to sixth place Saturday as Montgomery Bell Academy captured the team crown. “I guess it is just so much nerves. I’m not sure. So I’m happy with today. They (the nerves) were still there. I don’t consider myself having a great race but I’m definitely happy with second.”
And his coach said he should be.
While Carmichael wished he could have mirrored his performance two weeks ago to challenge Baylor’s Brandon Lord, who ran way with the state crown in a time of 15:53, Ensworth coach Guy Avery said his senior standout had nothing to be ashamed of.
“Second place is great. He has come a long way,“ Avery said. “He is a hard worker and very intentional. He deserves to be way high up there.”
This transformation from good runner to state title contender just didn’t happen over night for Carmichael. The 18-year-old credits his offseason workouts for that. Not much of a summer runner prior to this season, something clicked suddenly for Carmichael. He could see the writing on the wall. He was a senior — this was it.
“It hit me that that’s why I need to start stepping up the training,” said Carmichael, who played soccer for the Tigers as a freshman and sophomore and might pick it back up this spring. “I never really put complete focus into (running). But this season I have.”
Added Avery: “He put in a lot of mileage this summer and just was focused the entire year, training as much as he could.”
Carmichael, who has ran competitively for nearly seven years, wants to continue his running career on the next level. Though he knows he wants to study architecture, Carmichael isn’t sure where he wants to go to college. However, he obviously wants to head to a warmer climate, listing off California, Colorado, Florida and Texas as ideal locations.
If his success this cross-country season carries over into track, he could start hearing from numerous college recruiters. He has already proven to be one of the state’s better track runners — placing third in the 800-meter run last year and helping the Tigers’ 4x800-meter relay team to a state championship in 2007.
“He has been a really, really good track runner,” said junior teammate Creed McClellan, who placed 10th Saturday. “But he has gotten a lot better in cross country this year.”
And if there was a question whether Carmichael was a complete runner — on the track and cross country course — it was answered Saturday.
“This is a step to at least know that he belongs in that tier of runners,” Avery said.