Following the hottest summer ever in Georgia (something like 40+ days of 90+ degree weather in the metro ATL area...), school is back in session which means cross country season is just around the corner. After crunching some numbers, we compiled a list of the pre-season top 10 in boys' 7A plus some teams to watch. The parameters we used include 3200m PR, 1600m PR, and average XC 5K times for the top 7-10 returners on each team featured.
This shouldn't surprise anyone. The Broncos look poised to return to the top after Marietta had their fun the past two years. Brookwood returns three runners who broke 10:00 in track in the 3200m (Patrick Smith @ 9:41, Zunair Manzoor @ 9:50, Samuel Desta @ 9:58), and this doesn't include Gruem Tesfamariam who was injured all of track season and Daniel Mativo at 10:01. They top the list in just about every analysis possible, and assuming Tesfamariam comes back strong, should have him as a championship threat following his 9th place finish at state XC last season. The numbers say it is Dehnke's Broncos' championship to lose.
Coach Andy Carr's crew had a really strong track season as evidenced by three guys (Bowers, McCarthy, and Malkowski) at 4:25 or faster in the 1600m. They return four guys at 10:26 or quicker and have an individual threat for the championship in Bowers. Like Brookwood, Milton also has crazy depth with a host of other runners at sub 5:00. They're still chasing Brookwood, but they appear to be the team with the most realistic chance of beating them.
Lambert had a bit of a disappointing end to their season last year as they were projected to finish as a podium team, but the team returns most of their talent from that team. Leading the way are Tyler Fox and Byron Grogan who both broke 10:00 in the spring for 3200m. The majority of Lambert's talent appears to be in their junior class, so they could be a year away from contending for the championship, but guys like Keil and Burt at 10:14 and 10:15 in the 3200m in track season proves that Tigue's Longhorns return strong and could threaten Brookwood and Milton should either of them falter.
Speaking of weird, Marietta only at #4 after two straight state championships and a top 15 national championship finish? Unfortunately for Coach Coleman's Blue Devils, 3/5 of that team graduated leaving them with some major holes to fill. The good news, though, is they return two guys in Ben Patterson (4:28/9:21) and Hayden Tullos (4:34/9:21) who could also duke it out for the individual championship. Also, Colton Page has transferred in from Allatoona giving the Blue Devils a fierce 1-3 punch. Ben Gordon (4:49/10:07) and Jack London (5:07/10:59) could make big jumps, but that still leaves them without the ever critical 5th man, and in 7A, that could be devastating. Still, Marietta won't soon forget their recent success, so don't be surprised if they surpass this pre-season ranking.
It's about time we saw an Andrew Hudson coached team back in the mix, and this Collins Hill boys team quietly had a really impressive track season after a disappointing XC season. Kai Brickey and Merrick Rizzo lead the charge at 4:35/9:58 and 4:38/9:59 respectively. Neither of them appears to be a threat for the individual championship, but with three other returners at 10:22 or quicker in the 3200m (Urmetz @ 10:02, Clark @ 10:21, Beaubien @ 10:22), and several more under 11:00, the Eagles could be a surprise team in 7A this year.
Walton is an intriguing team. Andrew Singh (4:30/9:40) and Ben Dahlgren (4:30/9:43) didn't seem to perform as well in track as they did in XC, putting them in the opposite position of teams like Collins Hill and Lambert. Still, Gower knows his stuff, and his team looks poised to be a podium threat with a host of guys at sub 5:00 and five returners at 10:44 or faster in the 3200m. With two potential front runners, all they need is a couple more guys to step up, and this team is immediately in contention for as high as 2nd place at State.
Led by Christian Corsello (4:25/9:34), Parkview returns 5 of their top 7 from last year's 11th place team and had a strong track season. They return three more runners at sub 10:25 (Michael @ 9:48, Causey @ 10:20, Lightner @ 10:21) and a 4:34 1600m runner in Henok Hailu. There isn't a ton of depth after this (no other athletes sub 10:50) from this past track season, but Coach Demarest's Panthers have the potential to be a podium team especially with an individual champion threat in Corsello.
While Woodstock lacks the front runner, they still return seven athletes at 10:47 or faster from this past track season in the 3200m including Bailey (10:09), Catt (10:15), and Jaqua (10:23). They have a lot of depth, and a strong summer could catapult this team into podium contention especially if any of the above teams falter. If Bailey can make the jump to become a top individual like his brother was, that could be the missing piece needed for Woodstock to bring home a trophy.
It seems weird for Mill Creek to only be at pre-season #8, but the Hawks lost a ton of talent from last year's team and will really need their former role-players to step in and fill those shoes. Eric O'Hara (4:44/9:58), Steven Velasquez (4:43/10:05), and Delaney Moore (4:36/1:59) seem to be the biggest threats to do that. Without a true front runner, Coach Andy Christie will have to rely on his depth to find a few more guys capable of making the big jump in order to end the season on the podium.
If you only looked at Archer's returners from XC season, you wouldn't notice anyone besides James Cragin (4:25/9:44) who, by the way, should contend for the individual championship. Luckily for Coach McCartney, he had several guys either join his crew after XC season or decide to take the sport seriously as he all of a sudden has seven guys under 4:54 including two under 4:30. It remains to be seen if these seemingly track-strong guys can translate it to the XC course, but this team needs to be taken seriously.
Watchlist: South Forsyth, Grayson, Etowah
South Forsyth: South has lots of depth and even a near-front runner in Patterson (4:33/9:49) but otherwise really didn't impress in track season following a relatively strong XC season. With that said, they'll read this and get mad, so expect them to be able to work their way into the top 10.
Grayson: With 6 guys sub 4:54 in track season, they match up fairly well with Archer but just lack the true front runner although Emmanuel Devore (4:35/10:01) could become one. They have three other guys at sub 11:00 (Gunn @ 10:24, McNett @ 10:33, Langston @ 10:56) which shows they do have the talent to be a top 10 team.
Etowah: Etowah returns five guys at sub 5:00 and three guys sub 10:25 (Cooke @ 10:14, Ellingson @ 10:18, McGonigle @ 10:24), but on paper, there isn't much after that. They will need some guys to really step up if they're going to find their way into the top 10 at State XC.