Region 8-A Meet Preview

      The Region 8-A Cross Country championships will be held Thursday afternoon on the Spartan Course at Athens Academy.  The races will feature a number of the top teams in class A as well as several top individuals.  The day will also include the championship for region 8-AAA which will be hosted by Oconee County HS. 

The day's schedule will be:
2:00  8-AAA Boy's Varsity
2:30 8-AAA Girl's Varsity
3:45 Combined Junior Varsity Boys(8-A and 8-AAA)
4:15 Combined JV Girls
5:00 8-A Varsity Boys
5:45 8-A Varsity Girls

      In the 8-A boys race Athens Christian is the defending champion and defending state runner-up.  They return only one runner, Colin Bishoff, from that team but he has developed into one of the top runners in Class A.  He will enter the race as the prohibitive favorite after winning the Clarke-Oconee championship last week and he will be one of the favorites at the State meet in Carrollton on Nov 8th.  Interestingly, the defending Class A state champion is also in Region 8-A.  Ian Rogan of Prince Avenue Christian School came back to win last year's state meet after finishing 4th, right behind Bishoff in last year's region meet.  His twin brother Andrew was 2nd at region and was 3rd at state last year.  In the team competition, Athens Christian, despite having to rebuild after graduating 6 members of last year's team, is the slight favorite, but PACS did edge them by one point at the Clarke-Oconee meet. It may well come down to the 5th runner or even the tie-breaking 6th runner.   ACS and PACS are ranked 5th and 6th respectively in Class-A in the latest state poll.  Athens Academy, fourth in last year's region meet, fields a fairly young and inexperienced team which has been improving greatly and should have some influence on the outcome as should Hebron Christian who finished 5th last fall, and are trying to qualify for the state meet for the first time ever.  Towns County and Commerce will also be trying to earn one of the coveted 4 top spots to allow them compete in Carrollton.  

      In the girl's race ACS and Athens Academy renew their rivalry, which has seen them battle each other for region and state bragging rights each of the last several years.  Athens Academy was last year's Region 8-A Champion and came two points short of capturing the Class A State Championship as well.  Gone from that team are an number of key contributors and this year's version is currently ranked 8th in the state just behind the Eagles of ACS, who won the only head to head competition in last weeks's Clarke-Oconee race finishing 3rd to the Lady Spartan's 4th.  Towns County and PACS should also compete for team berths in the state meet.  Individually, Stephanie Murphy of Hebron Christian has run very well on the Academy course several times as has Whitney Henderson of PACS.  Mary Echols of ACS raced Henderson very well last week and should also challenge for the individual title.  The Lady Spartans hope that Sara Wetzstein will find a place near the top as she leads their pack in an effort to defend their region title.  The Spartans have been first or second in their region meet every year since 1986, earning 16 team championships during that span.  The last three times they did not take home the title it went to ACS, who look to earn their 4th region championship since joining the GHSA nearly a decade ago.