Boys Team Race
Commerce- The 2018 Cross Country season finished with two's for Commerce High School. Then, Sophomore Brandon Martin finished in 2nd place at the State Championship, while the team was edged out for the team title by 8 points as Georgia Military College Prep won their third title in a row. With four seniors on the squad no one was quite sure what to expect from the team this year. Needless to say, they have risen really surprised some people.
The development of Martin is central to team. He has not run above 17:45 this season. He won the Area 4 championship with a course record time of 16:16, with a 4:55 1st mile. The previous course record was held by Hunter Kimball, former State Champion and current Augusta University harrier. But the team is more than Martin. Senior Demarco Hernandez and Junior JJ Morris have had great seasons as well. These three all finished in the top three of the Area race, in what is the strongest area in A Public. As the temperatures have decreased so have their times. Hernandez ran a 16:47 at Runner Fit Mountain and a 16:27 at the area meet hosted by GMC. Morris has hovered around the low 18s to high 17s over the past month. If these three can run well at Carrollton, the team has a good chance to win the state title, which would be the first for long standing coach Mark Hale. The team does have depth, with Dominic Ricci also running mid 18s and Kade Morgan breaking 20 at the end of the season.
The key to this squad is Ricci and Morgan, along with Peyton McClure and Andrew Pascicelli. The top three will run well, but at the Area Championships under ideal conditions, the team split was 3:11. This could be the potential problem for the team. As more teams with strong runners push runners 4-7 down, it could be enough to prevent the squad from winning. This team looks to have 3 of the top 10 runners at the state championship, the question is can the others pick up the slack and lead the team to the promised land.
Schley County- The question with this team is where to start. After some early season injuries, the team has put its foot on the gas and not looked back. They defeated GMC on their home course in September by over 90 points! The strength on this team is the pack running that they employ. In their Area Championship runners 1-7 were all in the top 14 runners. There is no question that where Commerce have a great top 2, the strength of Schley lies in their pack running and tight split. David Williams can run a very fast race, and is an outside contender for the individual state title and runners 2-7 most often come in within a minute of each other. Aaron Pinckard, Daniel Iordanov, Dustin Howard and John Lightner round out an impressive top 5. Peter Horton and Tucker Welch add depth to the team and will displace other teams runners. Williams won the Area meet and was only out of the top 5 twice all season. Pinckard was out of the top 10 twice during the season. Iordanov struggled with consistency and injuries, but now seems to be on the right path. Howard has stayed consistent this season. These runners, have shown promise for the past three seasons. The majority of the team will return for the 2020 season as well, it is very possible that they will be returning as the defending state champions. It is a contrast is styles, but should lead to a great race on Saturday!
Towns County- From the mountain town of Hiawassee, Towns County will not have any issues with the hills. In fact, the course is quite a bit easier than their normal training runs. They are in the mix for a podium place, and showed their progression this season is not a fluke as they finished in 2nd place at the Area 4 Championships. Liam King has led the team to a strong season. The team entered the season as an unknown, and have slowly marched up the standings. Liam King, a Junior, leads the way and has posted some impressive times this season. With 4 runners under 19:17 at the Area Championship, the has a solid top 4. The real key for them will be their runners 5-7. If Jordan Lovelace, Luis Quijada and Lane Rouse can run well, and reduce the time, the team has a solid chance at third.
Lake Oconee Academy- Without a doubt, this is the strongest team LOA has ever had. A strong mix of experience and younger runners make the team a solid challenger for the podium. Led by Jack Miller and Ty Wood, the Titans are ready for this years state championship. Kendal Clark, Dylan Stewart and Kurtis Tran round out the solid top 5. Where this team needs help is the relatively week 6-7. Although they do not count, they can displace other runners, if the last two runners can improve and push others down, this team could challenge for a top 3 position.
Atkinson County- Once again Atkinson County has won the Area 2 Championship. They are one of the yearly contenders at the State Championship, is this the year that they are able to push over the proverbial hump and make the podium? The team is led by Holland Lott a senior who will know the Carrollton course well. This is one of the more experienced teams in the State field, and could be able to use it to their advantage on the second lap at Carrollton. Their team split is one of the smallest among the contenders with a 1:05 based off their average reported times this year. Robles Kevis, Abel Garcia, Anthony Gonzalez and Willis Mancil are poised for a history making day for the Rebels. The key for them will be to keep that split despite the hills. One of the yearly challenges is hills for this team. It is hard to find lots of them to simulate what is found for the State Championship.
Georgia Military College- After three consecutive state titles it looks like the Bulldogs run is going to end this weekend. With 5 graduating seniors for last years squad, the depth that led to the state titles is not there this year. Injuries to Colin McCabe have hurt as well. Ethan Tolentino, McCabe and Carson Waters will be key to this team pushing for the podium. The dominant team in the A Public era 5 state titles in 7 years looks to be down this year, and others have risen. The biggest key, like most teams, is getting runners 4-7 to stay close. Charles Lam, Christian Black, Carson Smith and Jack Harris need to have great days for this team to make the podium.
Drew Charter- Drew Charter, the last team not named GMC to win the state title is back this year with a outside individual contender in Jayden Causey. The rest of the team, Quinton Wells, Isaiah Meggett, Zachary Harris and Chancellor Minor have all improved during this year. For the team to challenge for the podium, their team split of 3:12 needs to drop to be improved by almost a minute. Every team ahead of them, with the exception of Commerce, has a split around 2:00.
Boys Individual Race
Top contenders appear to be Demarco Hernandez and JJ Morris of Commerce, Jack Miller of Lake Oconee Academy, David Williams of Schley County and upstart Jayden Causey of Drew Charter out of ATL. but the prohibitive favorite of the race is Brandon Martin. The junior from Commerce has had a great season with an impressive pr of 16:16 achieved at the Area meet on Georgia Military's home course and he could break the A Public course record at State if he runs well. It should be a great race. Colin McCabe of GMC did race at the Area meet, and if he's healthier could be a factor. Jack Miller from Lake Oconee Academy has made great strides since the onset of the season and pr'd at the Area meet going 17:40
Brandon Martin of Commerce
David Williams of Schley County
Jayden Causey of Drew Charter
Jack Miller of Lake Oconee
Colin McCabe of GMC Prep
Girls Team Race
2018 Champs Telfair County
Telfair County- The two-time defending state champion is back for more this season. Paige White and Shayla Cook have once again had strong seasons. White has twice run sub 22:00, with one on the very hilly Hawkinsville course. It is interesting that her two slowest times of the season, came on the Jeff Davis course, one without hills, while her fastest times came from those with hills. She looks ready to lead the team at state. Cook has been in the 23's for most of the season. This tandem has the experience of running on the two previous state title squads. For Telfair to win again, Ballie Grahm, Shelton Bathchelor, Zuria Willis, Rona Williams and Margaret Royal need to run great races. The team split of 6:05 is a major problem. Although it's normal to see larger team splits in A Public, a tight split is what enabled them to win the past two seasons. The second major challenge that they seem to have overcome the past two seasons is hills. They did race at Bleckley County and Hawkinsville to overcome this. It is possible that good runs for the entire team could lead to three in a row for Telfair County.
ACE Charter- Consistency is very important for cross country, and ACE has done that this season. Led by Katelyn Taylor, and Olivia Lowrimore, the team is poised for a possible state championship. In the top 7, there is only one senior, and they have been running together for a few years now. Each season the team has progressed, and it looks bright for them right now. Taylor has not been over 24:15 all season, with a season best at the Area 4 championships where she finished with a time of 22:39. Lowrimore has also been very consistent with no time over 25:01 and a season best of 23:39 at the Area Championships as well. The Area 4 champion has the smallest average split of 2:29. Ann Elizabeth Howard, Haley Whitehead and Antonia Kopp round out the top 5. One concern for the team is that after the top 5, there is a gap of almost 2:30. If something were to happen to one of the top 5, this race could become very close.
Commerce- Led by freshmen Paden Bell, the Individual Area 4 champion, has a strong chance to push for the podium. A respectable average time of 26:26 does mask some of the very real challenges with this team. Bell is almost 4 minutes faster than her teammates, which leads to a 6:11 split for the team. In order to really push up the scoresheet, Ermay Vazquez, Rachel English, Yami Vazquez and Hanna English will need to run great races.
Atlanta Classical Academy- This is one of the most difficult teams to understand this season. With many of the runners in so few events this season, they have kept to the weeds and waited to pounce in Carrollton. Anna Robbins is a solid top runner, with Wesley Whitehead strong as well. Laiden Corbally, Clara Mastrion and Mary Adams round out the top 5. With only one run for Mastrion, and Adams improving by over 6 min from Milton to their Area race, this team is surrounded in mystery.
Atkinson County- A strong runner up to Telfair County at the Area Championships, the Rebels are looking for more at the State Championship. The team is led by Grace Stone and Connie Joiner. The key for them will be to keep their 3:12 split despite the hills. One of the yearly challenges is hills for this team. It is hard to find lots of them to simulate what is found for the State Championship. Kim Perez, Megan Joiner and Yaslim Mendez round out the top 5.
Georgia Military College- With a solid top 3 of Jada Warren, Mattison Strom and Kamryn Willis, GMC is well positioned to make the podium for the first time in over 5 years. The runner-up at the Area 4 Championships will need to close their 6:30 split. If this can happen a top 4 spot is possible.
Baconton Charter- All season, the team from tiny Baconton (just south of Albany) has improved throughout the season culminating with the Area 1 Championship. Kimberly Curles, Madison Coalson, and Tabitha Boyer finished in the 5-7 spots with Lenzie Vickers in 9th leading the team to victory. The real question will be if Zaniya Freeman, Lorie Anne Buckner and Gracie Huston can close the time down. They already have a great team split of 2:36.
Girls Individual Race
The A Public Girls State course record may fall this Saturday much like the Boys record. The two-time defending champion, Gracie O'Neal of Gordon Lee, is the clear cut favorite for the individual title as she has proven time and again over her career that she can compete with the 'Big Girls' in the large school classes during the regular season. This should be a fitting swan song for her final GHSA State Championship race. Paden Bell out of Commerce is one to keep an eye on as the frosh has enjoyed a great first season. Paige White and Shayla Cook of Tefair will be dug in trying to defend their team title. Brett Landing of Jenkins County only competed in 1 race turning in results at the Area meet but a 22:16 will get one noticed in A PUB. Katelyn Taylor of ACE Charter will also be embroiled in racing for a team title like the Telfair gals above.
Gracie O'Neal of Gordon Lee
Paige White of Telfair County
Paden Bell of Commerce
Shayla Cook of Tefair County
Brett Landing of Jenkins County
Katelyn Taylor of Ace Charter