At the Atlanta Public Schools Cross Country City Championships on Tuesday, October 8, one question looms over the entire meet: Can someone stop the Grady High School sweep? The girls' team is looking for its fifth straight city title, while the boys are on the precipice of a three-peat. Tuesday will determine if North Atlanta, or any other squad, has the juice to knock off the perennial title contenders from Midtown.
On the girls' side, Grady looks about as much of a lock as possible heading into a cross country meet. The squad has won all five of the APS Cross Country meets this season, generally scoring around 20 points en route to those victories. Freshman Ellie Spears leads the Knights - she's posted a 23:06 on Grant Park that stands as the fastest time this season - but also has Emilia Weinrobe alongside her working to secure top points for the squad.
After Grady, the battle for spots on the podium will be between North Atlanta and Maynard Jackson High School. The Warriors and Jaguars have been on the podium alongside the girls of Grady the last couple of years, and this year should be no different. Throughout the season they've exchanged second and third place finishes, trading spots depending on which runners were out there and which teams delivered on the day. Maynard Jackson should have Eleanor Finlayson out in front with a high potential to win the race, meaning that North Atlanta will need to stack their pack in tight to secure second place in the race. Look for North Atlanta's Sophie Haines and Serena Miller to be the bellwethers for this race - if they can stick with Finlayson it should be a fairly easy road to second place for the Warriors.
In the boys team race, Grady should be similarly unassailable this year as the Knights go for their third straight APS City Championship. Led by Kavi Jakes, who's run a 17:15.51 at Run the Rock, Grady's squad is packed with seniors like Bram Mansbach and Elias Podber who will look to end their APS careers with one more title. The battle for the other two spots on the podium, however, should be tighter. North Atlanta, Kipp Collegiate, Maynard Jckson, and Drew Charter should all be in contention for second and third places.
The Warriors picked up wins in the first three APS meets of the season, in which Grady's pack ran together and didn't compete at full strength. But headlined by Andrew Churchill, who won the third meet in the series and was his team's top finisher at the Wingfoot XC Classic in 17:27, North Atlanta should have a decent chance to topple the defending champions and a really solid opportunity to secure second place in the meet once again. On the individual side, Churchill was second at last year's City Championships behind his graduated teammate Mac Bloodworth, so this meet marks a great opportunity at redemption for the North Atlanta junior.
A fascinating battle will be on hold between the other three squads. Jayden Causey has the fastest time of the season in the APS meets, as his 18:12.4 led Drew Charter to a fourth place finish in the fourth meet of the season. If Causey is able to replicate that performance and his teammates can stick closer to his fast time out front, their squad is one to be reckoned with.
Behind him in that meet was Logan Beasley of Kipp Atlanta Collegiate, who will also be vying for the overall individual championship in an effort to lead his team to a top-three finish. His 18:15 that day was the second fastest APS meet time of the year, and coincided with a day where the second through fifth runners for KIPP all finished within five places of each other. Reproducing that would be key to team success, and Beasley will have his eyes on an individual title as well. Ethan Heyms of Maynard Jackson will look to use that same formula to try and propel the Jaguars into a top team spot. Heyns finished third in last year's championship and has a personal best of 17:27 from earlier this season. While it will be hard for the team behind him to keep the spread low, if they're able to do so they could be a force on Tuesday afternoon.
Finally, Monychuc Deng of South Atlanta may not be involved in the team competition, but has burst onto the scene as a potential individual champion at the race Tuesday. Deng opened the season running just 20:05, but has since dropped his time to 18:31 as part of a second place finish in the final regular season meet.
Look for interviews and post-race coverage of the meet at atlantatrackclub.org.