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Posted: Thursday, November 1st 2012 at 7:20am

Cross country: Branch teams, White County's Gearing ready for region meets

By Jeff Hart Staff
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White County freshman Jenna Gearing
FLOWERY BRANCH – There are many roads to success, no matter the endeavor.

For Flowery Branch cross country coach Jimmy Sorrells, it was easy to pinpoint why his teams year-in and year-out are among the best in the state.

“We have a great middle school program that introduces the sport to kids and nurtures them very positively,” he said. “Todd Vokal and Crissy Ivey have done a great job and I just try not to mess them up when they get to the high school.”

Sorrells also deserves credit but of course, any good coach will tell you they’re only as good as their talent. And the Falcons continue to be loaded with distance runners.

The 2012 season has been no exception. The Falcons boys are ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA and the girls are ranked fourth and both will take those rankings into the Region 8-AAAAA meet Thursday at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers.

The boys are an overwhelming favorite to win the team title while juniors Nick Ashmead, Taylor Fiorello, and James Slavik and freshman Jake Schewbert all should challenge for the top individual medal.

“We have been blessed with some good talent over the years. The three juniors all ran state last year so they have the experience of these types of meets and that will be a big plus for us,” Sorrells said. “The intensity of the region and state meets is very different and I think our experience will be a factor. Jake is the fastest freshman runner I’ve ever had and has been a pleasant surprise. They all should be right in the mix.”

While nothing is guaranteed, after the Falcons, the other three spots to qualify for the state meet are up for grabs among the other seven teams with no real favorite.

The girls team title should be a dogfight with the Lady Falcons and fifth-ranked Winder-Barrow, the Region 8-AAAA champs from last year. Sophomore Cassie Ward will lead Flowery Branch but should get strong challenges from two Winder-Barrow runners, Loganville’s Jessie Fortner, and Lady Falcons’ sophomore teammate Lauren Kirk.

“I think it will come down to us or Winder-Barrow in the (girls) team standings and any of those girls have a chance to win the individual title,” Sorrells said. “But I feel like Cassie is probably the favorite.”

Sorrells said Loganville, Clarke Central, and Apalachee should battle for the final two spots for state.

While the Region 8-AAAAA meet is going on, the Region 7-AAA meet will also be run at Unicoi Sate Park. And White County coach Sam Borg is looking forward to seeing how talented freshman girls runner Jenna Gearing will fare in her first high-pressure meet.

Gearing has the fastest Class AAA time in 2012 with an 18:49 effort at Unicoi two weeks ago at the Mountain Invitational to break a four-year-old course record. Her time puts her in the top six in all classifications this season.

“She is a very talented runner,” Borg said. “She was good as an eighth-grader but came into the summer program ready to improve and she has done that every week. It’s fun watching her run.”

Gearing also has won the Berry Invitational and meets at Athens Christian and West Hall during the season. She leads the Class AAA third-ranked Lady Warriors, who are a slight favorite to win the region meet over rival and seventh-ranked North Hall. Freshman Sinead O’Bryant, sophomores Kristen Mitchell and Megan Norris, and junior Kaitlyn Gearing, give White County a young, talented group overall.

The North Hall girls are led by Victoria Rogers, who won the Hall County Championship earlier this season. Rogers is joined by Makayla Ellis, who should be in the running for a top 10 finish or higher.

“We don’t have any seniors and these girls continue to get better,” Borg said. “It should be a good battle with North Hall but I like our chances.”

In the boys meet, North Hall, ranked second in Class AAA, is a prohibitive favorite with Dawson County, West Hall, and Buford expected to battle for the final spots. White County is a dark horse but will need help to slip into one of the four spots to qualify for the state meet.

The Trojans are led by Witt Nix, who won the Last Chance Invitational at the state course in Carrollton last week. Witt also won the Hall County Championship earlier in the season. Teammates Tucker Locicero and Bryce Schuebert also should challenge for top spots.
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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