Erin Fegans leads Makena Gates and Morgan Vaden
Marist Girls, Gates and Fegans put on a show
The girl's varsity race stacked up to be a mid-season show down between the two top ranked all class teams as Marist and St. Pius made their way to the 3 loop gravel raceway at Boling Park. Overnight showers kept down the dust and nicely packed gravel - some years the park puts down extra gravel on the flat oval shaped mile raceway that can force the runners to the edges of the path looking for better footing - made for good racing conditions. At the mile, the tri of Oconee Country freshman Jenna Champer, Creekview Junior Makena Gates - coming off a solid victory the prior week at Carrollton Ortho, and the latest Erin Fegans, the lastest of the Landmark Fegans phenoms driving the train to a quick 5:40 opening split in her characteristic determined front running style. The team race was up for grabs as several Cambridge & Pope athletes populated the top spots rolling through the mile under 6:10 to match up with 2 front running St Pius Golden Lions and a couple of packs of navy blue clad Marist War Eagles.
Temperatures in the low 70s were matched by high humidity, but a much welcomed overcast kept the race course shaded as the teams hit the 2 mile split adjacent to the start / finish line. Things were looking up for Pius as senior Morgan Vaden, she of the 10:53 3200M PR on the track last spring, had closed to 3rd within a few seconds of the still leading Fegans (11:40) with Gates still in tow a step back. Marist Ace Emily Little hit 2 miles in 7th with Mary Brady from St. Pius right on her shoulder in 8th. Advantage Pius. As the field strung out, it became apparent that this was going to be Marist's day as a big bunch of their athletes ran through the 2nd split together in a pack at 12:35 without enough gold clad Pius athletes matching their pace.
At the finish Gates managed to beat Fegans to the inflatable arch for a 17:57.8 to 17:58.4 hard fought win. 2 time Footlocker Nationals qualifier and current Furman University star Emma Grace Hurley's Warpath Invite course record of 17:23 remained unchallenged, but the crowd of spectating friends and family saw the thrilling rarity of 2 female runners under 18:00 in the same race. Vaden managed 18:02.8, almost making it 3 under 18:00 for the first time in Warpath history.
The final team score was an impressive 61 points for winner Marist. Their top 7 runners all finishing in the top 26 and top 5 with an impressive, even for this fast course, 19:08 average. St. Pius X, missing at least one of their 2019 top 3 runners scored 133 points for 2nd. The Lions 19:31 average earned them a trophy one spot better than talented all class 6th ranked Oconee County, 148 pts 19:51. 7A #6 West Forsyth (154 pts 20:05) ran well for 4th. 6A #5 Pope (165 pts 19:56) finished one place better than 6A top ranked Cambridge (190 pts 20:06) who appeared to be mostly at full strength. Pope and Cambridge, just like Marist and St. Pius, certainly have unfinished business that will be resolved in November in Carrollton.
Hard to argue against Marist being the most clearly dominant girl's cross country program in Georgia so far in 2019 as their JV squad placed 5 runners in the top 10 for a dominant win over West Forsyth and Cambridge. Marist's open girls team scored a super low 20 points with 6 runners crossing the timing matt the top 10 places. St Pius X open girls showed their team quality depth in 2nd, followed by Cambridge in 3rd.
West Forsyth guys pull off the upset. Wade runs to a meet record
Devin Wade of Whitefield set a new course record
2019, much like 2018 must be a head scratcher for all the coaches volunteering to complete class level and all class rankings. Unlike a few years ago when Georgia had universally accepted better than anyone else guys teams - think Milton, Marietta, Marist, St. Pius, Brookwood - it feels like there are 15 or 20 guys teams who could make a case they should be considered as a threat for the top spot.
With some of the Cobb county squads recovering from their country meet the week before and all the Gwinnett boys over fighting for local bragging rights at the horse park, Warpath's guys field was a mixed bag of teams from across the classes who would make the list of potential top dog threats.
The pre-meet favorite would have to be Pace Academy. The 3A #1 ranked Knights boast a tough to beat set of twins (Adams and Blaha) who have put on an impressive start to the 2019 harrier campaign with aggressive, fearless front running. On the individual side, Devin Wade from Whitefield Academy, fresh off his last 2 wins at Covered Bridge and the AT&T Starrs Mill Invite, was a slight favorite over Providence Invite winner and AT&T Starrs Mill 3rd placer Zach Truitt from Landmark Christian. The dark horse pick, for anyone paying close attention to the 2019 results, was junior Colin Jones of Carrollton who battled to the wire to close to a win 2nd place 16:29 finish the prior week at Ortho.
However it looked on paper, the individual title was a no doubter win for Whitefield senior who floated through an easy looking first mile, stretching his lead to over 10 seconds over the still game Truitt and hitting the 2 mile mark in 9:52. Running with a Jacob McLeod easy looking style, Wade ran unchallenged to a Warpath Invitation meet record of 15:15.5, crushing the old eye-opening meet record of 15:28.7 by Chase Kennedy from 2017, Logan Poteet's 15:34 from 2014 and Sully Shelton's 15:40 from 2018. Pretty good company. Devin just missed the course record of 15:10 set by Sam Bowers at area in 2017.
Four other athletes broke 16:00 as the aforementioned Truitt (15:44) and Jones (15:40) followed in 2nd and 3rd. Lovett senior Jackson Borden placed 4th in a fine 15:52 and Pope senior Cole Heron rounded about the top 5 sneaking under 16:00 in 15:58.9.
In the team battle, 7A #7 ranked West Forsyth pulled off the upset, scoring a 105 to 125 win over #9 all class ranked Pace. The senior led Wolverines from Forsyth county averaged 16:34 led by senior Reece Cato. As it often happens in cross country, the team score was decided largely by the 5th man. West's 5th runner Paul Griffin stopped the clock in 33rd, only :43 behind his team leader, while Pace's #5 crossed 55th 1:20 behind his sophomore leader Edward Blaha who had finished an impressive 6th overall. West Forsyth and Pace have already battled twice earlier in the season with the Pace boys winning both times proving that this year really almost anything can happen with a bunch of pretty evenly matched teams.
6A #3 Pope (143 pts 16:38) came home third ahead of 3A #3 Lovett (165 pts 16:52) & St. Pius X (186 pts 16:57).
The Pius JV guys crowded 4 sophomore runners in the top 5 overall places to cement a commanding 25 to 68 points victory over West Forsyth. With these 4 fast 10th graders, the future, as it always does for St. Pius cross country, looks bright. The individual JV race champ was Eamonn Kenah. If that name sounds familiar it should. His dad is the Atlanta Track Club executive director and former world championships 800M bronze medalist Rich Kenah. Eamonn's mom Cheri is a 4:09 1500M/15:10 5000M former Villanova collegiate star.
The open team championship was dominated by the 15 point perfect score of West Forsyth, who had 8 of the first 10 runners and provided they have one of the more talented large squads of boys in Georgia.