The Georgia All Decade XC Awards 2010-2019
by Andy Christie, Kevin Lisle, and Ryan McClay
The dawn of a new decade is a natural time to reflect on the previous 10 years..
We drew inspiration from this amazing article that letsrun.com did on NCAAs and found ourselves wondering: who would be the individuals, programs, and teams that would receive the Georgia All Decade XC awards?
With this in mind, we set about combing through mountains of stats. However, we did set some guidelines in place, as there are obviously some differences between NCAAs and our high school structure in Georgia. So here they are:
⦁ We compiled this spreadsheet that shows average place at State, along with notes about what classification(s) teams were in during the decade. It also includes podium stats for teams. To simplify, we divided teams into 3 categories: highest classification, 2A-6A, and 1A. Only teams that qualified for State at least 6 years out of the decade were included, to reward longevity and consistency. This spreadsheet was part of the information we used for these awards.
⦁ For the best individual teams of the decade, we decided to only include one team per program. This of course meant that some perennial powerhouses, who might have more than one contender for the list, were limited to one team. We wanted to include as many teams as possible, so we felt one per program was sufficient (if there were multiple contenders for a program, we left it up to a vote which team was included-more on that vote in a minute).
⦁ We decided to focus on State Championship teams, with one exception: the 2010 Parkview Boys, who placed 5th at NXR, who might be the best boys team in State history in the largest classification to not win a State title. Otherwise, we kept the focus on State Champs.
⦁ Finally, along with stat analysis, we included a coaches vote. We contacted several coaches from top programs from all classifications across the state to get their input and see how they ranked the teams, programs, and individuals.
Of course, no "best of" list would be complete without some potentially controversial choices. We know you might not agree with this list, but hopefully you will at least agree with the teams who are mentioned, even if you don't agree on the order. If nothing else, this will hopefully spark healthy discussion and debate about what makes a top team, program, and individual!
Girls Program of the Decade: #1 Marist
With their year in and year out dominance, the Marist girls were voted as the top program of the decade by state coaches. Their average State merge place is 3.1, over 5 places higher than 2nd place. Their average place in 4A is 1.2; they won 9 State Championships and had one 3rd place finish, for a podium spot every year of the decade. Their low state merge place shows that they were in contention to win any meet in Georgia they went to, regardless of what classifications other teams were in. This program is exemplified by the phrase "we don't rebuild, we reload", and their year in and year out success is to be commended, just like the coaches did by voting them the program of the decade.
Podium Programs: #2 Walton, #3 Westminster, #4 South Forsyth
The 2nd place podium team is Walton. Their average State place is 4.3, with them finishing on the podium 8 times during the decade, all in the highest classification. They won 2 State Championships, with another podium spot being a Runner-Up finish, and have an average State merge place of 8.6. Westminster comes in at the 3rd spot. They won 9 State titles between 2A and 3A, and had a State Runner-Up finish, to finish on the podium all 10 years. Their average State merge place was 6th, which means that the Wildcats were competitive against teams from all classifications. #4 South Forsyth had an average State merge rank of 12.1 and an average State place of 5.7, which was mostly in the highest classification, with one year in 4A as the exception. They had 1 State Championship, with an additional 5 State Runner-Up finishes, for a total of 6 podium appearances during the decade, to solidify their selection as the final decade podium program.
Honorable Mentions (listed in alphabetical order):
Boys Program of the Decade: #1 St. Pius
No program has been as dominant as St. Pius was in the last decade. The Golden Lions took care of business in the years they were favored, and also pulled off some upsets at State in years when they came in as underdogs. Their average State rank (divided between 3A and 4A) is 1.2. They won 8 State Championships total (4 in each classification they were in) and the other 2 years they finished 2nd, giving them a spot on the podium every year of the decade. Perhaps even more impressive, their average State merge place (including all classifications) is 3.6. While there are differences between State race dynamics in different classifications, an analysis of Invitational results from across the decade confirms they were always among the top teams in the state, regardless of classification.
Podium Programs: #2 Brookwood, #3 Marist, #4 Marietta
Also claiming podium spots are 2 teams from the highest classification and one 4A school. Brookwood's average State place for the decade was 3.4, and their average State merge was 6.7. They won 3 State titles during the decade, qualified for NXN one year, and had 4 other podium appearances. They also extended their 20+ years of making the podium (all in the highest classification) through 2016. In 4A, Marist had an average State place of 2.1, and an average State merge place of 7.7. They won 5 State Championships and their 4 other podium appearances were 2nd place finishes. They consistently were among the top teams in the State, regardless of classification. Back in the highest class, Marietta had an average State place of 6.4, and an average State merge place of 10.7. They won 2 State Championships and qualified for NXN once. They made 2 other podium appearances, helping them to claim the 4th and final All Decade podium spot.
Honorable Mentions (listed in alphabetical order):
Girls Team of the Decade: #1 2014 Marist
Of all the great Marist girls teams last decade, the 2014 team claims the prize for best team of the decade. They won Double Dip (20:16), then torched the course at Warpath, with an average of 18:47. They took 5th at Trinity Valkyrie in 19:19, then 7th at Great American. They won Coach Wood in 19:35, and then they averaged 19:31 en route to winning a State Championship. Their places at State were 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 9th (and then 11th and 16th) for the extremely low score of 20, a 97 point margin of victory. Their top 2 runners could have not finished the race and they still would have won by 75 points. They posted an undefeated season (and the previous season) against Georgia competition. A 5th place finish at NXR, with an average of 18:38, completed their season, and cements their status as the top girls team of the decade.
Podium Teams: #2 2018 Marietta, #3 2019 St. Pius, #4 2011 Walton
Standing atop the decade podium are Marietta, St. Pius, and Walton. The 2018 Marietta girls were dominant all season long, claiming victories at Battle of Atlanta (20:31), Jekyll (20:09), Cobb (19:22), and Wingfoot (19:16). They placed 3rd at Great American in 18:55, and 2nd at Coach Wood in 18:55. They capped their season by winning State and then placing 7th at NXR. The 2019 St. Pius girls, 3rd by coaches vote, spent most of the season as the 2nd best girls team in the state and also 4A, but peaked when it mattered most. They won Mobile in 19:46, placed 2nd at Warpath (19:31) and Wingfoot (18:56), took 8th at Great American (18:49), and 2nd at Coach Wood (18:34). The pinnacle of their season was claiming the State 4A Championship. The 4th and final spot on the podium goes to the 2011 Walton girls. This was the second of back to back State Championship teams for the Lady Raiders and they were quite impressive. They won Ortho (21:15), Warpath (19:43), and placed 3rd at FSU (20:08). They placed 2nd at Coach Wood in 20:14, and then claimed their 2nd straight State Championship.
Honorable Mentions (listed in alphabetical order):
2016 South Forsyth
Boys Team of the Decade: #1 2015 Marietta
Solidly among the top of the heap for the decade are the 2015 Blue Devils of Marietta. This group was the 2nd of back to back State Championships, but 2015 was the year they really took things to another level. Their State places were 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 14th, giving them a score of 27, one of the lowest for boys in the highest classification in State history (an interesting stat: if you score the first 5 non-Marietta runners in the race, their score is 32 points). Then they went to Nike Regionals, where they won with a team average of 15:50. At Nationals, they placed 15th, the best boys Nationals finish in state history. With this resume, the state coaches name them the best boys team of the decade in Georgia.
Podium Teams: #2 2017 Milton, #3 2011 Brookwood, #4 2013 St. Pius
Making the podium for boys teams of the decade are Milton, Brookwood, and St. Pius. The 2017 Milton boys team had perhaps the best regular season team in state history. They won Knights Crossing with a 15:35 average, and followed that up by winning Wingfoot in 15:29. They went on to win the State title with a score of 40 points, with a margin of victory of 138 points, and finished their season by placing 5th at NXR. . The 2011 Brookwood boys first defeated the 2010 Brookwood team by votes to earn a spot on this list, even though the 2010 team qualified for Nationals. In 2011 they won Berry (16:23) and Gwinnett County (15:56) in dominating fashion, then went on to place 3rd at Great American. At State they placed 3 in the top 5 and 4 in the top 10 en route to scoring 32 points and winning by 110 points. They went on to place 3rd at NXR in 16:06. Rounding out the podium spots, the 2013 St. Pius boys won Berry (16:40) and Ortho (16:55) and Hounds and Hares (16:22). They took 8th at Great American (16:17), then won the Class 3A State title. They finished their season by placing 5th at NXR with a team average of 15:52, staking claim to the final podium position for the decade.
Honorable Mentions (listed in alphabetical order):
2012 Mill Creek
Girl Runner of the Decade: #1 Grace Tinkey (First Presbyterian Day School)
Grace Tinkey bridged two decades, running cross country for FPDS at a varsity level starting in 2008, when she won her first GISA state title as an 8th grader. The following year Grace won her second GISA state title, and qualified for Foot Locker Nationals as a freshman, where she finished 20th. FPDS moved to the GHSA from GISA in 2010, where Grace won her third state title, and again qualified for Foot Locker Nationals, finishing 20th. During her junior season, in 2011, Tinkey won a fourth cross country state title before finishing third at Foot Locker South with her high school PR of 17:08 at McAlpine. That year she finished 6th at Foot Locker Nationals, running 17:37 in San Diego. 2012 was expected to be a banner year for Grace, as she was clearly one of the top returners in the nation; however, an injury prevented her from racing during her senior season. Despite that disappointment, it's clear that Grace was the top runner from Georgia this decade. She never lost a race to another girl from Georgia, is tied for the most appearances at Foot Locker Nationals for runners from Georgia, and ran faster and placed higher at Foot Locker than any runner in Georgia's history. She is quite possibly the greatest high school cross country runner of all time from Georgia.
Joining Grace on the "All Decade" podium are a group of outstanding runners, listed in order as voted by coaches from around the state.
#2 Nicole Fegans (Landmark Christian School) - State Champion, finished 7th at Foot Locker Nationals in 2016, tied for 2nd best finish ever by a Georgian.
#3 Emma Grace Hurley (Fellowship Christian School) - State Champion, qualified for Foot Locker Nationals twice, finishing 15th in 2015.
#4 Morgan Ilse (Marist School) - three time State Champion, fastest Georgian ever at WakeMed (17:21) when qualifying for NXN in 2014.
#5 Lindsay Billings (Northview High School) - three time State Champion, finished 19th at Foot Locker Nationals in 2015.
#6 Serena Tripodi (Lovett School) - three time State Champion, ran the fastest time ever on the current Carrollton setup (18:17), and qualified for NXN in 2015.
#7 Savannah Carnahan (South Forsyth High School) - finished 39th at Foot Locker Nationals in 2015.
#8 Kathryn Foreman (Landmark Christian School) - two time State Champion, qualified for Foot Locker Nationals as a sophomore in 2013.
#9 Anna Marian Block (Athens Academy) - State Champion, finished 29th at Foot Locker Nationals in 2016.
#10 Elizabeth Funderburk (Colquitt County) - State Champion, ran the 3rd fastest time ever on the current Carrollton setup in 2017 at Ortho.
Honorable Mention Girls (listed in alphabetical order):
Makena Gates (Creekview High School)
Ellie Hall (Marietta High School)
Hannah Miniutti (Blessed Trinity High School)
Brynne Sumner (Woodstock High School)
McKenna Trapheagan (Woodland High School)
Boy Runner of the Decade: #1 Josh Brickell (Peachtree Ridge High School)
No other runner this decade was as dominant as Josh Brickell of Peachtree Ridge. In the early part of the decade Josh won three state titles in GHSA's highest classification (10th, 11th, and 12th grade years), with a career best time of 15:40 at Carrollton. Josh qualified for Foot Locker Nationals his junior and senior seasons, with his best finish being 8th place his junior season. That finish is tied for best boys Foot Locker Nationals performance in state history. His best Foot Locker South time was 14:41 at McAlpine, which is the fastest time at Foot Locker South in state history. Unfortunately, Josh did not finish his senior Foot Locker race, but that does not change his place among the greatest runners in Georgia history; his overall body of work shows that he was a force to be reckoned with and that he left his permanent stamp on the history books.
Joining Josh on the "All Decade" podium are a group of outstanding runners, listed in order as voted by coaches from around the state.
#2 Jacob McLeod (Trinity Christian School - Dublin) - won three GISA state titles, qualified for Foot Locker Nationals as a junior where he finished 15th.
#3 Reilly Friedman (Galloway School) - won three state titles, and ran 15:05 to qualify for NXN, where he ultimately finished 28th.
#4 Graham Blanks (Athens Academy) - won two state titles, set the current Carrollton setup record of 15:33, won Great American in 14:45, and qualified for NXN where he finished 28th in 2019.
#5 Austin Sprague (St. Pius X High School) - won two state titles, ran 15:09 at NXR to qualify for NXN, where he finished 32nd.
#6 John Higinbotham - did not run in the GISA or GHSA, but was a two time champion at the Meet of Champions, and finished 17th at Foot Locker Nationals in 2019.
#7 Sam Bowers (Milton High School) - two time State Champion, ran 15:09 at NXR as a senior to qualify for NXN, where he placed 35th.
#8 Hayden Tullos (Marietta High School) - member of 2015 Marietta team that qualified for NXN, came back as a senior to run 15:15 at NXR to qualify individually for NXN, where he finished 39th.
#9 Sully Shelton (Harrison High School) - State Champion in 2019 as a junior, finished 47th at NXN, after running 15:03 at NXR to qualify.
#10 Justin Wachtel (Mary Persons High School) - State Champion in 2019 as a junior, finished 37th at Foot Locker Nationals, after running 15:03 at Foot Locker South to qualify.
Honorable Mentions: Listed in alphabetical order.
Cody Barger (North Hall High School)
Myles Collins (Archer High School)
Kyle Harkabus (East Coweta High School)
Brad Hort (McIntosh High School)
Nicholas Yanek (Milton High School)