Light's high finish gives boost to host Oak Ridge

Friday, September 21, 2007
Oak Ridge's Garrett Light sprinted to the finish line Thursday at the Oak Ridge cross country meet. Light placed sixth. (Kit Doyle)

The Blue Jays finished third in their own meet.

Oak Ridge's Garrett Light joined the cross country team last fall as a freshman to prepare himself for basketball -- his main sport.

He thought running long distances would condition his body so he would gain the endurance to play more minutes on the court and go deeper into games.

His statistics from last winter show that he had the right philosophy. As a freshman, Light scored 357 points for the Blue Jays' varsity basketball squad.

But Light is no longer running just to get in shape. He grew to enjoy cross country and he has returned this season to win meets.

Saxony Lutheran senior Deanna Sippold made her way along a soy bean field Thursday, September 20, 2007, at the Oak Ridge Cross Country Meet. (Kit Doyle)

"I just wanted to get in shape primarily last year," he said. "But now I just do it because I like it. I like to win, so anything that's competitive [I enjoy]."

Light was the top finisher for area schools and took sixth overall (17 minutes, 9 seconds) at the Oak Ridge Invitational on Thursday. He improved on his time at the same meet last year by 43 seconds and helped the host Blue Jays to a third-place finish in the boys competition. Farmington finished in first with 32 and Saxony Lutheran took second with 61.

On the girls side, Saxony Lutheran's Deanna Dippold (22:02) was the first runner from area schools to cross the finish line and took fifth overall to help the Crusaders to second place with 45 points. Dexter finished in first with 16 and North County placed third with 55.

Light said running four to seven miles a day with the cross country team was difficult on him last year, but he trained this summer for cross country in addition to preparation for basketball season, which included playing AAU basketball for the Missouri Panthers.

The sophomore could not give an answer to whether he enjoys basketball or cross country more.

"Whatever I do better at, I guess," he said.

Light placed in the top 10 at the district meet last fall, making him eligible for the state tournament, where he finished 98th. He said this year he wants to place first overall in the district and get as close as possible to the top 25 at the state meet.

Oak Ridge coach Jason Niswonger said that Light is an excellent all-around athlete, including on the basketball court.

"He's really taken this seriously even though it is his third sport," Niswonger said. "It's such a good example for all the other runners because they take it seriously, too. I've had some good teams the last few years as far as attitude and behavior and work ethic, but it's amazing the work ethic this group has now."

Unlike Light, Dippold has been a long distance runner her entire life. The senior is in her fourth season of cross country. Before high school she ran the two-mile race in elementary school track.

Yet, Dippold has been a little lonely on the trails the past couple years.

During her sophomore and junior years, the Saxony Lutheran girls team had only one other member. Therefore, it could not qualify for the district meet as a team because it lacked the five runners needed.

But this year, Dippold helped recruit four other runners so the team would be able to compete.

Dippold finished second last year as an individual entry at the district meet and is a three-time qualifier for the state meet.

"I've been by myself for the past three years, so I'm really excited about having a team," she said. "It was hard [the last couple years] because I had to run by myself and train by myself and push myself. It's harder to be by yourself. This year is nice."

Dippold helped recruit two girls who also play volleyball, and her sister, Kristen Dippold, a freshman.

Saxony Lutheran coach Larry Cleair said he is excited about the second-place finish for his girls team.

"It's just great to have a girls team, and having three girls in the top ten is just fantastic," he said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: