Tunningley runs his way to Nationals
By Alonzo Garza
Once again, Lockhart’s running sensation Rory Tunningley has proven his mettle, showcasing his stamina and winning determination against top contenders in his sport.
While most of Lockhart was enjoying the Thanksgiving vacation break, Lockhart High School senior, Tunningley ran another spectacular race at the South Regional
Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in Charlotte, N. C. on Saturday, Nov. 24.
Tunningley finished sixth out of 274 runners in the South Region race guaranteeing him a spot in the national race. The top 10 finishers qualified automatically for participation in the National Championship race to be held in San Diego, Calif.
“I thought Rory ran a brilliant race,” Head Coach Scott Hippensteel said. “He never looked out of control. He told me the speed of the race felt easy and that he still has more left. I am very proud of Rory and excited to see this young man, who has trained so hard the last year, be rewarded with a trip to the national championship.”
Tunningley gets an all-expense-paid trip to San Diego for the National Championship race on Saturday, Dec. 8. He is one of five Texas runners who earned a spot in the national race.
With over 15,000 spectators at the event, Tunningley pressed on in temperatures hovering in the mid-40s proving he can run in almost any weather. According to Hippensteel, the weather conditions were ideal for a fast-paced race. The cool, intermittent breeze did not hinder any of the runners. In fact, the cool temperatures might have helped speed up the race. Some of the runners may have wanted to finish running to get indoors.
Tunningley ran the 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) in a personal and school record time of 15.08.
“Rory’s time is also believed to be the fastest time ever run in the history of class 4A in Texas.” Hippensteel said.
The South Region is comprised of a total of 14 southern states. Those states include Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
Tunningley had to beat the State Champions and all other runners from 11 states in order to finish sixth place overall. It was not a small feat for any mere mortal, but definitely possible for a well-seasoned, incredibly prepared, highly dedicated high school senior determined to beat his own best time.
The tough race ended with the following standings. Colby Lowe of Southlake Carroll in Dallas won the individual championship in an incredibly fast time of 14:45. Lowe is the two-time defending 5A State Champion in Texas. Ryan Hill of Hickory, N. C. finished a distant second behind Lowe with a time of 14:56. Lowe is the current three-time cross-country State Champion in his home state.
Lowe’s teammate C.J. Brown placed third with a time of 15:00. Jason Witt of Midlothian, Va. finished fourth with a time of 15:03 while Luke Lovelace of Chapin, S.C. ran for a close fifth place with a time of 15:04.
Tunningley was brilliant in his efforts to reach one of the coveted top ten spots. Finishing in sixth place with a time of 15:08 guaranteed his participation in, the “holy grail” of cross-country races, nationals.
Tunningley becomes only the second Lockhart High School distance runner ever to qualify for the National Championship cross country race.
In 1998, Tommy Bonn finished in fifth place in an identical race on the same course. Bonn ran a time of 15:22 for a Lockhart High School 5,000-meter record, which he held until Chris West ran a time of 15:19 on his way to winning the 2004 State Championship. Bonn went on to finish 23rd at the National Championship race held in Orlando.
Tunningley will be running against 39 of the nation’s best runners in the 2007 Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships race. At that level of racing there are no 4A or 5A classifications. Some runners are from smaller school sizes but most are from fairly large schools.
FLCC records to be broken are a time of 14:29 set in 1999 by D. Ritzenhein in Orlando, Fla. for the boys and a time of 16:24 set in 2001 by A. Trotter for the girls, also in Orlando. The FLCC Balboa Park Course records are 14:36 set in 1985 by R. Reina in San Diego for the boys and a time of 16:39 set in 1990 by M. Fairchild for the girls, also in San Diego.
Rest assured, Tunningley will be working hard for the next two weeks in preparation for the National Championship race. The girl’s race begins at 9:15 a.m. and the boys take off at 10 a.m.
The top 15 runners in San Diego will earn All-America honors.
Lockhart fans, friends and family not able to attend the event will find comfort in knowing the race will be aired on ESPN at a later date.
Congratulations to Rory and Coach Hippensteel for continuing to reach for the stars. Both athletes are proof that hard work and perseverance pays great dividends for those who truly deserve it.
God speed, and run, Rory! Run!