Girls Team Race
The 2019 7A Girls season has actually been fairly consistent. The best 3 teams - South Forsyth, Hillgrove, and Marietta - have remained the best 3 teams. West Forsyth and Milton have been rounding out the top 5, and then it's a pretty nice sized smorgasbord of Gwinnett schools with remaining Cobb and Forsyth schools. With that said, those 3 teams battling for the championship all have a legitimate shot to pick up the 'Dub', and there will absolutely be chasers from the back half of the top 10 that will look to play spoiler and steal the final podium spot.
Best races: Wingfoot (5th), Area (1st),
Worst races: Milton (2nd)
Aside from a short-staffed race earlier in the season, the South Forsyth Lady War Eagles have been pretty dominant on the girls' side in 7A, save a 1 point loss at Battle of Atlanta. They've certainly been challenged by the next 2 teams featured on this list, but South comes in as the favorite following a dominant route at Area. Madelynne Cadeau, also one of the individual favorites for the title, has led this team and has been among the best runners in GA for 3 years. Sophia Baker and Carmel Yonas have offered great support, but where South Forsyth will need to close the gap is at 4 and 5. We've seen what can happen in dense fields when gaps get too big, but if all 5 are on, it's going to be tough to beat these ladies. They were 2nd a year ago to Marietta and will seek revenge on 11/2.
Best races: Wingfoot (6th), Coach Wood (3rd)
Worst races: N/A
Hillgrove has been one of the most consistent teams in 7A this year. They've secured victories over every team in the field except South Forsyth, but they pushed them to the wire at Wingfoot, finishing a mere 5 points back in a loaded field. These ladies have raced stout competition all season, and they've proven to be a true contender for the championship. Mainstay Grace Ellsworth has led this team seemingly since 'nam and will also be an individual contender. The team features 5 other athletes who have broken the 20:00 including 2 sub 19:05 (Sierra Wehrenberg 18:54 and Ava Brooks 19:02. Coach Wood performances don't always translate to Carrollton, but this team is well coached, well prepared, and well poised to make a serious run at the title.
Best races: Area (2nd), Coach Wood (4th)
Worst races: Hoya (3rd), Great American (NTS)
Injuries and perhaps even a little bad luck have affected Coleman's 2018 7A Championship squad this year, but could they be coming alive at just the right time? They started strong and are now ending strong. This team only lost by 7 points to Hillgrove at their Area meet which is a massive improvement from earlier in the year. June Mwaniki is the sole senior on a very young and promising team, and while she's yet another individual we need to pay attention to for the individual title, she's going to want to repeat as a team champ, too. The wildcard on this team is absolutely Betsy Gordon, the junior who was top 10 at State as a freshman but has missed large portions of the last two seasons. She's back now though and just took 6th at Area. Her presence on the team joins her with the duo of Hattie Rydinsky and Finley Mann truly makes Marietta a major threat. They're a great combination of "old" and "new" blood, and that sometimes yields strong performances.
Best races: Carrollton (4th), Area (2nd)
Worst races: Wingfoot (12th)
West Forsyth is one of those teams where there's not quite enough firepower up top to be a threat for the win, but they're deep enough to get their 5th runner in before almost anybody else which could truly benefit a team that has been fairly consistent all year. They feature a 33 second spread from 1-5, and their entire varsity squad is either a junior or senior showing not just depth but experience, too. This team was also just off the podium last year, so one has to believe they're doing everything they can to snag that 4th spot. Look for Ashley Hannigan to lead this charge.
Best races: Milton (1st), Knight's Crossing (3rd)
Worst races: Wendy's (10th)
Milton's been another pretty consistent squad this year although they appear to be a step down from the top 3. Leader Nyah Hernandez has spent the back half of her high school career at Milton and has helped them thrive; look for her near the top. Depth could be a problem for the Lady eagles though as they only have 5 runners who have gone under or flirted with the 20:00 barrier. Freshman Annalise Crow is having herself an awesome season and should continue the upward trend of her senior counterparts Hernandez and Abby Rindt once they graduate. That's next year though; this year's Milton squad seems poised to contend for a trophy but will need all 5 on target.
Best races: County (1st), Area (1st)
Worst races: Wingfoot (17th), Carrollton (8th)
The Lady Panthers have had the biggest one-season turnaround of anyone in the field. After failing to qualify last year, Parkview is now a top 10 7A team looking to do a little more. Led by freshman Abi Debebe and senior Claire Mills, the ladies' best races have both come at the Georgia International Horse Park where they were victorious, but they'll need to show their prowess on the hills of Carrollton which was one of their weaker races this season. They're an outside threat for a top 4 finish, but as many people say, "crazy things happens at State."
Best races: County (4th), Mobile (2nd)
Worst races: Wingfoot (16th)
Gower's Girls were probably hoping for a little more out of this season following last year's 3rd place effort, but such is the sport of cross country. Either way, history has a way of repeating itself at times, and Walton is one of a handful of teams that can sneak in and snag a podium spot if things go well. Junior Sarah Burwell was one of the pleasant surprises last track season by making a huge jump and has continued that momentum to XC season. Isabela Bazan has been a nice supplement to this squad as well, but they'll need some help from their supporting cast to move further up this list. The potential is certainly there as is the coaching; it's just about putting all the pieces together at the right time.
Best races: FLRunners (2nd), Coach Wood (10th)
Worst races: Wingfoot (23rd
The Lady Hawks have dealt with some health concerns this season, but most indications point to them being healthy at the right time. They snagged a top 10 finish at Coach Wood and were runner-up in their Area meet - both times within striking distance of being in the conversation as a podium contender. "MC Baby" has a good bit of depth and are similar to a team like West Forsyth where, if everyone pops off, they could be dangerous. It'll be critical that the junior pack of Andrea Montes, Jordyn Purnell, and Edith Kahiga keep it close to the #1 runner on this team in Isabelle Hahn. They were 7th last year and appear set to finish around the same this year. Nobody "aims" for 7th though; I see no reason for Mill Creek not to swing for it and see where the place cards fall.
Best races: Coach Wood (9th), Carrollton (5th), FLRunners (1st)
Worst races: Area (3rd)
The Lady Broncos of Brookwood have been knocking on the door of returning to an "elite" level and could have all the pieces to get it done. A podium berth isn't out of the question for these ladies and are led by Reese Sadler who is also a top 10 individual threat. Freshman Allie Wardle has been a huge boost to this team, too, and it's always exciting what freshmen phenoms can do on the big stage for the first time. Watch for that pack of maroon to try and be "in the business" early on and attempt to stick it.
Best races: Coach Wood (12th), Berry (2nd)
Worst races: Wingfoot (25th), Great American (19th in Seeded)
Lambert has been one of the more inconsistent teams in 7A this year. When they're on, they've shown they can work their way through the top 10 with a win over Mill Creek at Berry and a narrow loss to Parkview at Wingfoot. This is a team who could launch their way up this list if they can repeat two performances from earlier in the season. Emily Chapman is the top Lady Longhorn on this squad, and Lambert will need to keep the gaps small to have a chance to move up "in the pack". We know from history that there are sometimes 50 or fewer points separating 4+ teams in the top 10.
Individual Championship Threats
NOTE: What is cool about this season is the top 3 team threats also feature arguably the top 3 individual threats, too.
Madelynne Cadeau (South Forsyth): The SF senior boasts 3 victories this season, the most significant being Area where she broke 18:00 for the second time in her career. She's also the top returner from last year's race and hasn't lost to a 7A girl since Battle of Atlanta on 8/24 (June Mwaniki and Reese Sadler). Consistency is key, and she's been on point since Battle. A 'chip is always a great way to end a senior season, and she's going to be fighting not just for herself but for her team who's also largely in the conversation. Watch for her as she tries to break away to make it happen.
June Mwaniki (Marietta): As mentioned earlier, this Lady Blue Devil senior is one of two athletes who has defeated Cadeau. She just took down another individual favorite, Hillgrove's Grace Ellsworth, at Area to claim her first victory of the season. She was also just outside the top 10 at Coach Wood which is always impressive. Like the rest of her team, she could be catching fire at the right time. As another top returner from last year's 7A State race, she knows what it means to compete for a top finish on the grand stage.
Grace Ellsworth (Hillgrove): This Hillgrove senior has been a little up and down this season, but she's another threat for the title. She took 6th last year and won this year's Cobb County championship. She was also the #3 overall Georgia runner in the Race of Champions at Great American, so she's shown glimpses. You only have to be "on" once, and her team is firmly in the conversation for the team title.
Sarah McCartney (Archer): This Archer senior won the first 4 races of her senior campaign and followed it up with finishing just outside the top 10 at Coach Wood and a runner-up spot at Area. She will surely be looking to exact revenge on the course where she was only 39th last year. She's set herself up for a great finish and should be a contender if not for the win then for a top 3 finish.
Emily Golden (Tift): This senior doesn't get as much attention as she's not in metro ATL area, but Golden's senior campaign has been pretty successful. She's secured 5 victories this year and has had a fun rivalry with Archer's McCartney. She had a bit of a hiccup at Wingfoot but bounced back well to take 14th overall at Asics and claim the Area 1 championship. She finished just outside the top 10 at Carrollton last year and will certainly put herself in position early on to make a case for a top 10 (or better) finish this year.
Sarah Burwell (Walton): The Walton junior has 4 top 5 finishes this season including a 3rd place effort at Cobb County and a runner up finish in Area 3. If history is an indication, Burwell will save the best for last as she matched her area finish (16th) with her state finish (16th) last year after really not showing to be at that level. Could Carrollton be her course? She could see herself in the top 10 with a strong effort.
Reese Saddler (Brookwood): The final State Championship for this Lady Bronco will be this Saturday as she saddles up (I'll see myself out...) for one more date at Carrollton. This will be her 4th race on this stage, and she's had a strong finish to her season including a top 20 finish at Coach Wood and a victory at Area 4. This seems to be her most consistent season to date, and she certainly has both the talent and experience to be a top 10 runner on Saturday.
Nyah Hernandez (Milton): Hernandez's days as a Milton Lady Eagle will end on 11/2, and she's had herself a strong season. A 15th place finish at Coach Wood followed by a 3rd place effort at Area 3 show that she could be trending in a good direction for the end of her campaign. It should be noted that she took 5th last year at State, and while she hasn't quite been able to hit that level yet, Carrollton has served as a great equalizer in the past. Experience and just strong overall hill runners tend to prevail, and Hernandez has plenty of experience with those thanks to not just Carrollton but her home course where she was runner-up at their invitational.
Madison Watts (Mountain View): 4 victories highlight this MV senior also entering her final XC season. She took 10th last year at State and took 5th at the Atlanta Classic and 5th at Berry earlier this season. She's been a little inconsistent (only 15th at Gwinnett County) but still took 3rd at Area and will attempt to repeat her top 10 finish from last year.
Ellie Skelton (Lakeside Dekalb): This freshman has really come on hard late in the year. She went 25th at Coach Wood and was runner up at Area 4. It's always interesting to see how freshmen react to their first Carrollton experience, but I like to see trends - and this athlete is certainly trending in the right direction for her final race of her inaugural season.
Other athletes to watch: Sierra Wehrenberg (Hillgrove), Sophia Baker (South Forsyth), Makenna Calbert (Etowah), Ava Brooks (Hillgrove), Sydney Runyan (Etowah), Carmel Yonas (South Forsyth), Isabela Bazan (Walton), Ashley Hannigan (West Forsyth), Lizzy Smith (Hillgrove), Hattie Rydinsky (Marietta), Abi Debebe (Parkview)