7A Girls Team Preview
On the girls' side, it appears to be an epic duel between Milton and South Forsyth. The two teams can't seem to get away from each other late in the season as they battled it out at Coach Wood and at Area with Milton coming out on top. There are a handful of other teams we need to consider for Friday, but this analysis will focus first on the perceived duel for the title and then the rest of the teams battling it out for podium spots.
Post Region Team Rankings:
2. South Forsyth
4. West Forsyth
6. North Gwinnett
10. Mill Creek
Outside Looking In: Woodstock, Peachtree Ridge, Kennesaw Mountain, Lakeside DeKalb
Milton: Milton enters the season as the favorites to win the 7A title. Led by senior Marie Repasy, Milton's girls have dominated the girls' competition this year finishing as top GA squad at Wingfoot and then earning victories at Fulton County, Gene Mullin, Coach Wood and Area. While these victories have certainly not all been 'convincing' victories, especially when comparing them to South Forsyth, Carr's Crew has still gotten the W in these, and as a result, they're the favorite. They've also got two freshmen in Faith Bobak and Abby Rindt as well as sophomore Taylor Cushman and senior leader Brook Aumer who all finished in the top 7 at Fulton County (That's right - 5 in the top 7). This team is good.
Strengths: DEPTH. Milton put 5 in the top 28 at Coach Wood and 3 in the top 13. South is the only other team in the conversation who can match this. Their 1-5 split was 1:18, and they've shown they can run well on hard courses as evidenced by their thorough domination of the Fulton County Championships on perhaps the hardest course in Georgia.
Weaknesses: I should call this a 'relative' weakness as it's only relative to South Forsyth. They don't quite have as much depth as South. The only place they beat South at head-to-head at Coach Wood was at #2. If South closes their gaps just a little bit, Milton could be in trouble. Repasy as top runner is also not quite as strong as Kaylee DuPont of South, so if DuPont is on and Repasy isn't, it could spell trouble.
Outlook: The season calls for Milton to have around a 51% chance of winning State based on how close they've been to South this season. They're still the favorite, and if they take care of business on Friday as they've shown their capable of doing, they'll leave Carrollton as the champions.
South Forsyth: Following last year's runner-up finish at State, South enters this State meet also as the perceived runner-up. After losing Savannah Carnahan, the team had questions as to how quickly they could rise again to prominence. They've put all that speculation to rest. SF's team looks poised to make a championship run and has been the only other team in the State to prove they can win.
Strengths: DEPTH. They have the best depth in Georgia as they put all 7 of their runners in the top 26 at Area and were the only team to put all 7 runners in the top 35 at Coach Wood and also the only team to put 3 in the top 10. In addition to DuPont, senior Milicent Bergey, freshman Caroline Patterson, sophomore Aleesa de Castro, sophomore Ellen Teeter, and freshman Emma Kline have shown to be the best top-to-bottom team in Georgia which could prove quite beneficial for this team.
Weaknesses (relative to Milton): The one thing this team has a disadvantage in is the 1-5 gap. This is in part because DuPont is so good, but it could still be a trouble spot for South if they want to take out Milton. 7A has several individuals that could break in between South's 1 and 2 which could be just enough to give Milton the victory. Again, this is relative only to Milton.
Outlook: I would give SF a 49% chance of winning State (leaving the remaining 1% for every other girls' team to fight over). They're pretty much just as capable of beating Milton as Milton is of beating South; Milton has just had the slight edge. They may finish 2nd on Friday, but it won't be without it being a blood bath between these two teams.
Brookwood: The Lady Broncos had a convincing win at Area 4 to head into State with some momentum. Following a small scare with #1 runner Lauren Flynt before Coach Wood, the ladies proved that they're the favorite to pick up 3rd place on Friday. Following Flynt is the steadily improving crew of Elizabeth Saliba (who actually beat Flynt at Area), freshman Reese Saddler, and sophomore Hannah Gatland. Avery Freeman, Mackenzie Ellison, and Olivia Sharpe rounded out the Brookwood squad. These ladies are well-coached by Coach Carter and should be poised for a return to the podium.
Strengths: Flynt and Saliba are both top 10 threats for Friday which will give them a strong 1-2. Nobody else in 7A has a better #2 than Brookwood, so if they're able to continue that trend, it'll give them the 1-2 punch necessary to stack some points on the field.
Weaknesses: Depth. After Saliba and Flynt, there's a near-minute gap to their #3 (from Area) and it was over a minute at Coach Wood. That allows for a bunch of teams to get critical scorers in between, and it serves as the main reason why the Lady Broncos max out at 3rd on Friday barring catastrophe from Milton or SF
Outlook: This is a much improved Brookwood squad who has been resurrected from the dead after finishing well-outside the top 10 a couple years ago at State. They're on the rise, so expect to see them getting some hardware - perhaps as much as two individual medals and a team trophy.
West Forsyth: West Forsyth looks to be rounding out the podium after a solid season led by the ever present Liz Galarza. They had a solid 3rd place finish at Area nipping Walton and took 8th place at Coach Wood. They've had a solid season this year and had a strong 2-5 at Coach Wood all finishing within 14 seconds of each other (Mallory Luskus 20:56 - Michaela Harrison 21:10). The gap was a little bigger at Area due to the emergence of Stephanie Shea, but their 3-5 were all within 9 seconds.
Strengths: Depth. While they're a step or two behind county rival South Forsyth, West has the depth necessary to finish on the podium. Having a pack as strong as West in the middle of the chase pack at State is a big deal (2-5 should in between 35-55). They've also got a true top runner in Liz Galarza that should absolutely contend for the individual title which, of course, can't go unnoticed.
Weaknesses: They really just need their pack of scorers to move up a little bit in the standings. They're pretty much identical to South Forsyth (clear #1, solid #2, pack of 3-5), but they're not fast enough to contend with the top 2 in this race.
Outlook: This team is good enough to challenge Brookwood for 3rd, and I expect these two teams to be within 15-20 points at State. If West is going to move up, they have to get their pack further up the field to account for Brookwood's strong #2; merely beating the Lady Broncos' 5th with their 5th won't be enough.
Walton: Similar to their guys, Walton's girls have been a little up and down this season. They took a really strong 5th place in the championship race at Coach Wood and handily beat West Forsyth but then lost to them at Area. Abigail Robertson leads the charge for Walton heading into State with a strong 18:28 at Area. Their 2-4 are also strong (L'Estrange, Mitchell, and Chamberlain).
Strengths: Walton's 1-4 are pretty strong as they put all of them in the top 41 (only Milton, South Forsyth, and Harrison showed more depth). As I've already discussed, it's critical to have this sort of pack at State to rack up points and split up other teams. Walton has shown they can do this.
Weaknesses: They need their 5th runner to step up. There was a 30 second gap at Area (a fast course) and a 45 second gap at Coach Wood, a more challenging course. If that gap opens to a minute at State, they can't podium as it's just too many points lost.
Outlook: Walton showed at Area that they can put 3 in front of West's 3, but they need the 5th runner to be big. Walton proved with their top 5 finish at Coach Wood that they're podium contenders, but they'll need everyone 'money' on Friday to escape with a trophy.
North Gwinnett: North Gwinnett didn't run their studs at Coach Wood but showed up big at their Area meet, taking 2nd place ahead of county rivals Mill Creek and Peachtree Ridge. Junior Lyndsey Fowler was their top runner at Area and has been for the season. There's a bit of a gap after her, but the 2-5 split of only 30 seconds was impressive. They come into State on the up rise.
Strengths: Depth. North Gwinnett is among the deeper teams in the field. Their 7th runner finished ahead of every other team's 7th runner at Area, and they did the same thing at County. Similar to other teams, they've got the depth to move up to podium contention.
Weaknesses: Their gap from their top runner to the rest of them, similar to West Forsyth, is just too big. North Gwinnett is deep, but that 2-5 depth will really need to eat into the gap to Fowler for them to have a chance at a trophy.
Outlook: North's girls have had a strong season and enter State with some momentum; it'll just take a couple teams above them faltering for them to come home with a trophy.
Marietta: Marietta was victorious at Area, narrowly defeating rival Hillgrove. Marietta had a strong top 3 who finished 3-4-5 (sophomore trio of Arianna Miller, Ellie Hall, and Ani Henderson with a gap of only 13 seconds). This proved to be too much for anyone else as their 3rd finished before anyone else's 2nd. They also took 9th place at Coach Wood and put 3 runners in the top 40.
Strengths: They have a strong top 3. Their #3 finished right ahead of Walton's 3rd and handily beat West Forsyth's 3rd runner. If they can repeat this at State, it has the potential to shake things up a bit.
Weaknesses: They really need to close that gap. Their 4th runner finished 45 seconds behind their 3rd, and their 5th was another 45 seconds behind their 4th. At Area, there was a one minute gap from their 3rd to their 4-5. That's just too much space, and too many teams will take advantage of that gap.
Outlook: If they somehow close the gap (similar to how their guys have), they could be a surprise team at 7A State. They've got the top 3 who match up well with some of the teams contending for a trophy, but they'll really need some help from their role players.
Hillgrove: Hillgrove, similar to their guys, have had an up and down season. They got thumped at Coach Wood (albeit missing a couple) but then bounced back big time and nearly defeated Marietta at Area, losing by only 2 points. This team is pretty fascinating as their top 3 runners at Area were all freshmen (Grace Ellsworth, Sierra Wehrenberg, and Royal Delay). Ellsworth leads the way with a powerful runner-up finish in 19:11 at Area and could put herself in top 10-15 company at State.
Strengths: This is a young team with seemingly nothing to lose by sort of 'going for it' on Friday (ugh. It's still so weird to say Friday and not Saturday). They're going to gain a lot of big meet experience at State, and while this team isn't completely freshmen (everyone else is at least a sophomore), this youth-filled team could shake things up simply because they don't know any better!
Weaknesses: There's a full 1 minute gap between their #1 and #2 as of Area, and with that being a fast course, that gap should only grow at Carrollton. Additionally, that youthfulness I was referring to could also yield a very scared team feeling 'over their heads' with the stress that comes with the State Championships.
Outlook: This team could be something special in a year or 2, but it definitely seems that it's a little early for them to make serious noise on Friday. They could be a surprise though as they really don't have anything to lose by just going for it.
Lambert: The Lady Longhorns rounded out the top 10 at Coach Wood and followed it up with a 5th place finish at Area. Lambert's girls have had some solid performances this year and were led by Mae McKenna at Coach Wood who finished in the top 50. Brianna O'Neal was their top runner at Area, joining McKenna in the top 15.
Strengths: Relatively speaking, Lambert has some depth. They were one of only 6 teams at Coach Wood who got their entire top 7 in the top 100. That's something to be proud of and excited for as many of their counterparts don't have the same amount of depth.
Weaknesses: There's really two big ones - lack of a true front runner and gaps. At Coach Wood, they didn't have a single pair of runners - they were sprinkled throughout the race. At Area, they were way closer to each other, but it was also a much smaller race. Additionally, while McKenna and O'Neal are solid runners, neither of them should finish any higher than around 25-30th at State which is just too far back for a team with the gaps they have.
Outlook: In spite of their weaknesses, this is a solid team and should enjoy a top 10 finish in Carrollton. They're part of the deepest class in Georgia and would contend for a trophy in essentially any other class. The young runners on this team will use this as experience to build upon for next year.
Mill Creek: Mill Creek's season has unfortunately fallen apart down the stretch. Neither Sara Scales nor Marisa Petit have raced in a month or longer, and they've not shown to be close to the State Championship team they were last year in spite of only graduating 2 of their top 7. Even so, this team still has potential to rebound, and they've got valuable experience that can lead them to that rebound.
Strengths: Camryn Petit has had herself a great season. She finished 8th at Coach Wood and took 2nd place at Area. She's an easy pick to finish top 10. After that, the duo of Olivia Fuller and Hannah Olive finished only 2 seconds apart at 12th and 13th. The pieces are there for this team to put their top runner in the top 10 and their next 2 in the top 50.
Weaknesses: Unless Scales and Petit make a comeback, this team doesn't have the depth to overcome the gaps after their 3rd. At Area (Horse Park - fairly quick course), the gap was over a minute. At Coach Wood, the gap was 1:20 between 1-2 and 1:15 between their 2nd and 5th runner. That's just too much space.
Outlook: If they can race Scales and/or Petit, this projection obviously changes. If they don't, this team will need a lot of help from their role players to move up this list.
***Look out for Woodstock and Peachtree Ridge who are both barely on the outside looking in.
7A Girls - Individual
Similar to the guys, there are several girls in the conversation for taking top honors. I'll showcase the top 4 whom I believe have the best chance of winning and then offer some thoughts about 7 other athletes I believe should finish in the top 10.
Kaylee DuPont: DuPont enters State as the #1 returner from last year and has had a great season. She as finished no lower than 4th at any point this season and has victories at Blastow and Warpath. Additionally, she was the top 7A runner at Coach Wood. She looks to be a slight favorite heading into Friday, but there are a couple of runners who will absolutely be looking to take her down, including a crosstown rival...
Liz Galarza: Galarza of West Forsyth ended her season on a sour note last year but has run this season with vengeance in mind. Notably, she beat Kaylee DuPont at Wingfoot (by .02 seconds!), took 4th place at Coach Wood (losing to DuPont), but then beat DuPont again at Area by 15 seconds, taking 2nd place just behind Macki Walsh of Etowah. Galarza has been 'in the game' for a while, so her experience alone could make her dangerous on Friday.
Macki Walsh: Fresh off her Area victory, Macki Walsh of Etowah will be 1 of 2 (Sydney Runyan) representatives for her team on Friday. Walsh took 6th place at Coach Wood narrowly losing to her above counterparts and hasn't finished outside the top 10 all season. She also broke 18:00 for the first time at Area and could be entering Friday with the most momentum.
Elizabeth Funderburk: Just because you don't live in metro ATL doesn't mean you can't contend for a state championship. Funderburk (Colquitt County) is as good as any girl in 7A as evidenced by her 3rd place finish at FSU and 2nd place finish at Westover. She's not raced top Georgia competition much, but she did take Serena Tripodi (Lovett) to the wire at Westover and only lost by 6 seconds (nobody else was within a minute). Take the fact that Tripodi absolutely dominated the field at Coach Wood, and it gives plenty of evidence that Funderburk could arguably be the #1 contender for the 2016 Girls' State Championship.
Mary Kathryn Knott: Knott of Peachtree Ridge has been heading in the right direction down the stretch of this season. She was victorious at Area, beating Gwinnett rivals Camryn Petit, Lauren Flynt, and Elizabeth Saliba. She was County runner-up, took 4th at Berry, and hasn't finished lower than 13th this season - all other races were top 10. She's a junior and far and away the leader of that team. It'll be interesting to see if she can mix it up with any of the above 4.
Elizabeth Saliba: Saliba of Brookwood (R) is one of the biggest breakout performers in the top 10. She stamped her name as a true threat when she stepped up big in Lauren Flynt's absence to be top Lady Bronco at Coach Wood, finishing 6th. She followed it up with a strong 3rd place at Area (trumping Flynt). She also raced well at Great American, taking 26th place. She's been in the top 10 3/5 races this season, and while she's somewhat new to the spot light, she's more than capable of capping off her season well into the top 10.
Lauren Flynt: A runner not new to the spotlight, Lauren Flynt also of Brookwood heads into her final State Championships. Flynt took 12th at the meet last year following a disappoint sophomore appearance, and she put together a strong season, racing in the top 10 ¾ races including a victory at the Gwinnett County Championships. Flynt was held out of Coach Wood for precautionary reasons, but she returned strongly at Area, taking 4th. Flynt's experience at these big name meets should help her make her first top 10 appearance at State in XC.
Camryn Petit: Following in her sister's footsteps, Camryn has had a great campaign as the leader of the Lady Hawks of Mill Creek. She's been in the top 8 all but once (Great American) and has shown to be best on strength courses (2 top 10 finishes at State in her only 2 attempts). She's got big race experience and puts it together when it really matters, so look for her to be up there on Friday.
Marie Repasy: Marie Repasy of Milton, a senior, heads into Carrollton fresh off a 4th place finish at Area and a very impressive 5th place overall finish at Coach Wood. She's been in the top 10 at every meet this season and was closer to the 20:00 barrier than just about anyone who's ever raced that infamous Fulton County Championships course, showing her strength on tough courses. A 10th place finish at Wingfoot was also impressive, beating out Mary Kathryn Knott.
Morgan Mihalis: Mihalis (Lakeside-Dekalb) rounds out our top 10 feature with a season of only one race outside the top 10 (Asics). She took 5th at Area and was victorious at Aubrae Gunderson. She doesn't have any notable victories over the above listed, but she's kept it close enough throughout the season to show that she can hang. By average overall time across the whole season, she ranks 7th in 7A showing consistency.
***Other athletes to watch for: Brynne Sumner, Lyndsey Fowler, Abigail Robertson, Elizabeth Rice, Caroline Patterson, and Grace Ellsworth.
West Forsyth High School
South Forsyth High School
Milton High School
Walton High School
Milton High School
Peachtree Ridge High School
Lakeside HS, DeKalb
Woodstock High School
Mill Creek High School
South Forsyth High School
South Forsyth High School
Milton High School
South Forsyth High School