Blanks Wins NXR SE, Shelton & Miniutti Qualify

(photos by Brandon Miles of FloSports)

Georgia harriers had a big day at the Nike Cross Country SE Regionals as 3 athletes qualified for Nike Nationals as individuals which is a first for Georgia cross country in the history of the Nike event. In the rainy and muddy event, Graham Blanks of Athens Academy was crowned the Individual Champion, Sully Shelton of Harrison HS placed 3rd overall and Hannah Miniutti of Blessed Trinity placed 6th overall in the Girls Championship race punching her ticket to the big dance. This article contains many 'Game of Thrones' references, lol.

Nike XC SE Champion Graham Blanks post-Race Interview

Graham Blanks (The Lord of the Northern Kingdom) has fought many battles this season, winning them all except for a narrow defeat on his homeland 3 months ago, which he has avenged tenfold. Blanks raced to the NX SE Regional title in Cary, NC clocking a 14:57.70 in battle conditions that were less than optimal compared to another skirmish that was being waged 3 hours south in near perfect racing conditions. After his victory, Graham spoke to the people..

"The plan from the get-go with Coach Anderson was to get a big PR at NXR Southeast, also with the course record in mind. Seeing the weather updates in Cary throughout the week preceding the race though, it became more clear that a PR may not possible on that day.  From the gun, I did get boxed in a little through the first 150-200m but made my way up to the front by around 300m, which is my preferred way of racing: front running. We hit the mile marker in 4:31 without experiencing too many muddy areas on the course, which led me to believe at the time that a PR could be possible that day. That was until we hit the hill. I made the mistake of wearing flats and had a lot of trouble with footing going up the muddy incline, made even worse by the several other races that morning. I hit the two mile in around 9:30 and had started to separate from the pack. With about 800m to go, Carlos Shultz from Loudon Valley made a big push and closed the gap, but with about 100m left until the final hill I made my final move and passed. I pushed up the hill hard without looking back and finished with a satisfying time of 14:57, considering the conditions that day. It was an incredible and almost surreal experience winning NXR Southeast and I'm looking forward to putting all my chips on the table at Portland this weekend!"

Sully Shelton of Harrison HS placed 3rd overall at Nike SE Regionals

Shelton, the reigning 'Lord of Metro Atlanta' had a simply outstanding effort in Cary, NC at the Wake Med Complex placing 3rd overall with a time of 15:03. Lord Shelton has enjoyed an outstanding season of Tournament, with 5 overall wins, including victories at Coach Wood, Region 6-AAAAAA and the GHSA State Championships 4 weeks ago. He will continue on to the compete at the Nike Cross Country Nationals this Saturday in Portland Oregon along with Lord Blanks. He addressed his people after the battle..

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Hannah Miniutti of Blessed Trinity raced to 6th overall and a berth to Nike Cross Nationals

Hannah Miniutti 'the Queen of the Georgia Kingdom', cemented her reign by qualifying as an Individual, with her 6th place effort of 17:46 (a pr) Miniutti began her ascent to the crown with a stunning victory at the Wingfoot XC Classic almost 5 fortnights ago. And, followed that with 3 consecutive victories at Region 7-AAAA, GHSA State 4A and in the Meet of Champions Tournament. The Queen spoke to her loyal subjects after earning an advancement to Nike Cross Nationals..

"Going into the race, my plan was to position myself in the top twenty by the mile and try to gradually move up throughout the race. When the gun went off, I knew I had to get out faster than ever before given the large competitive field and the long downhill start. I also knew I had to be extra careful as the rain had caused very muddy conditions. Fortunately enough, I was able to get out exactly where I wanted to be so by that point I just had to focus on staying relaxed while gradually moving up throughout the race. I came through the first mile in about 5:24 positioned around tenth place. I was able to catch up to the number four and five runners over the course of the second mile. Nearing the finale 600-meter hill, I knew there was a chase pack not far behind me. By that point, I just had to battle with everything I had up the final hill in order to maintain my position to have the possibility of qualifying for nationals. Crossing the line, I was able to withstand my position finishing in sixth place running a new personal record of 17:46" 

We would be remiss not to mention the valiantry  of Marist's maidens, as they rose up to 6th as a team at Nike SE Regionals, putting a stamp on who actually may have had the best female squad in Georgia this season when the war with the Lions  finally concluded.