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Posted: Thursday, November 8th 2012 at 9:01am

Area teams ready to run for cross country gold

By Jeff Hart Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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North Hall's Witt Nix will lead the Trojans into the Class AAA championship on Saturday in Carrollton.
CARROLLTON – Flowery Branch cross country coach Jimmy Sorrells said they have been house-building all season. With Saturday’s Class AAAAA state meet on Saturday, he said it’s time to find a buyer.

“We built the foundation in the preseason and we’ve done the walls, the roof, painted it, and gotten the furniture. Now, it’s time make the sale,” he said. “Both teams are ready and hopefully we’ll be able to finish strong.”

Five classifications will hold the state meet at the state course at West Georgia College beginning with Class AAAA at 8:30 a.m. Class AAA will be held last beginning 2:30 p.m. Class AAAAA is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

The Flowery Branch boys are looking for their second straight state title after winning the Class AAAA championship in 2011. The Lady Falcons finished second in AAAA last year but both teams moved up to Class AAAAA this season.

The boys, ranked No. 1 in the final Class AAAAA poll, are led by three holdovers from last year - Nick Ashmead, Taylor Fiorello, and James Slavik – while the girls, ranked fourth, are paced by Megan Kirk.

“We probably are considered the team to beat in the boys but Lakeside, Evans and McIntosh both beat us during the year. We also beat them and I feel very confident with how they will do. We just need to stay away from injuries,” Sorrells said.

The girls, however, are expected to be part of a five-team logjam that could all come away with the title. Winder-Barrow, Dunwoody, Lakeside-DeKalb, Lakeside-Evans, and McIntosh should all battle with the Lady Falcons.

“Winder-Barrow is very tough and finished ahead of us in the region but all of the teams have a real chance,” Sorrells said. “But this is probably the best (girls) team I’ve had here and I believe they will do what they need to do to win. The team that shows up the most will win it.”

In the Class AAA meet, the North Hall boys are looking to improve on their second-place showing from 2011. The Trojans are coming off another Region 7-AAA title. Witt Nix set a personal-best 15:54 at the region meet at Unicoi, and Tucker LoCicero, who was second at region, Bryce Shuebert, who was third, and Seth Chapman, who took fourth, along with Zack Hill, form a deep group.

The championship figures to come down between St. Pius and North Hall, which are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the state. Austin Sprague of St. Pius, who has lost just one race all year in Georgia, is a heavy favorite for the individual title.

"We feel we have a solid chance to win it all, but St. Pius is perhaps a slight favorite over us coming in," North Hall coach Drew Rogers said. "The key will be the 3, 4, and 5 runners and where they finish. Austin is a huge favorite so if we can get our top two guys up high and then try to catch their other runners we can win it."

Joining the Trojans from 7-AAA are West Hall, Buford, and Dawson County, along with East Jackson and Jackson County out of 8-AAA. White County’s Austin Thompson also qualified with a top six finish at the region meet.

The White County girls, fresh off an impressive region title win, could be a dark horse at the state meet. Freshman phenom Jenna Gearing set a new course and personal-best record last week (18:43) and could help the Lady Warriors, who are ranked third headed into the meet, improve on an 11th place finish last year.

"She has the fastest time in AAA this year and is definitely the favorite to win the meet," White County coach Sam Borg said. "She likes to jump to the front right from the beginning and that's her plan. She's going to make the other top runners decide whether to follow her or stay back. If they stay back she will be hard to catch."

Gearing's main competition will be Natalie Kile of Blessed Trinity and Ashton Lord of Chapel Hill. Gearing is not alone, however, with Kristen Mitchell, Megan Norris, and Kaitlyn Gearing all finishing in the top 10 at the region meet. Sinead O’Bryant completes a solid and young Lady Warriors team.

As a team, Borg is looking for a podium finish.

"We think we can finish in the top four if we run the kind of race we've been running," he said. "Blessed Trinity and St. Pius are the deepest teams and will be hard to beat but you never know what can happen. We're in a group with Chapel Hill, Woodward Academy, North Oconee, and North Hall and any combination of those teams could finish in the top four. It should be a good race.

"What I like is that we have no seniors on this team so this is a great opportunity for them to experience as a team what the state meet is like. They are young but very talented and I think we have a chance to be good for several years. I'm very excited and anxious to see how they do."

For the Lady Trojans, Victoria Rogers, who was second at the region meet, finished eighth at last year’s state meet and is shooting for a higher finish. Makayla Ellis and Katie McDowell finished in the top eight at region for North Hall.

"We're looking for a podium finish as a team," Drew Rogers said. "I think Victoria and Makayla both could finish in the top 10."

The West Hall and Dawson County girls will join White County and North Hall at the state meet.

In Class AAAA, both the Chestatee boys and girls teams are coming off their first-ever region titles and look for upper-tier finishes from both squads. Senior Sara Beth English won the Region 8-AAAA girls title and finished 20th in last year’s state race. But Chestatee coach Mark Dunn said English could have a better showing with teammate Tori Mullinax, who finished second at the region meet, back and ready for state.

“Tori was not able to run the state meet last year and they really feed off each other,” Dunn said. “I think they both could finish in the top 10 or 20 and as a team we should be able to finish the same.”

The Chestatee boys, led by Jose Reyes, Jason Dang, and Jack Carnes, are making their first state meet since 2008 and are looking for a top 20 finish or higher.

“Those guys have run well but the competition, for both the boys and girls, is extremely tough,” Dunn said. “The state course is flatter than (the region course at Woodsmill) so maybe we can have some better times. We’ll see what happens.”

Joining Chestatee in the AAAA meet from 8-AAAA is Johnson, Stephens County, and Lanier on the boys side and Lanier, Walnut Grove, and Lumpkin County on the girls side.

In Class AA, both the Jefferson boys and girls team return from last season along with Riverside Military Academy and Union County on the boys side. The Rabun County and Union County girls also made the state meet.

The Jefferson boys finished sixth and the Lady Dragons took 10th in last year’s state meet.

STATE CROSS COUNTY MEET SCHEDULE, Saturday, Nov. 10

8:30 a.m. – Boys Class AAAA
9:15 – Girls Class AAAA
10:00 -- Boys Class AA
10:45 -- Girls Class AA
11:30 -- Boys Class AAAAAA
12:15 p.m. -- Girls Class AAAAAA
1:00 – Boys Class AAAAA
1:45 -- Girls Class AAAAA
2:30 -- Boys Class AAA
3:15 -- Girls Class AAA
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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