Miller & Blessed Trinity Girls Triumphant At Alexander/Asics

(photos by Marc Logan)

It was a near-perfect day for racing Saturday morning at the Alexander/Asics Invitational. The meet lived up to the pre-race hype in the championship races. This may have been the most competitive non-state race held this century in Georgia. A race for the ages... According to reports from many long-time prominent XC coaches, the Chatt Hills Eventing venue was simply beautiful. The grass was re-cut again before race day, making the course a little faster, and in immaculate shape for an event of this magnitude. Meet Director, Alexander HS head coach Brian Robinson deserves to be recognized, hats off to Coach Robinson and the whole Alexander crew for putting on one whale of a meet and all the other coaches who pitched in developing the layout and measuring the course multiple times to assure it was legit. Coach Robinson added, "The venue was incredible, the people at Chatt Hills Eventing want to have more cross country meets there. I have to thank my coaches and parents. To pull this off in less than two weeks was a tough task. Plus I want to thank all the coaches that helped me, Jamal Willis, Steve Cunningham, Andy Christie, and Jack Coleman. The races in the championship divisions were the best I've ever seen in Georgia. It says a lot to the level of coaching that is going on in our state right now."

Boys Championship Race

This race began in extreme fog, almost hauntingly like on the hilly moors, stirring visions of cross country ghosts of the past, watching silently in approval.

Justin Watchel, Sam Rich and Kamari Miller set the pace.

The 'big boys' took over the race early, as Kamari Miller of Marietta, Justin Wachtel of Mary Persons, Sam Rich of now Catawba Ridge, SC, Andrew Jones of North Hall, Woodrow Dean of Tallassee (AL), Michael Toppi of Viera and Zack Truitt of Landmark Christian were all engaged in a tight pack for the crown. Not sure where, but Miller and Sam Rich separated a bit down the stretch and were in close combat. Rich pushed Miller to the brink at the 2019 Battle of Atlanta, and again pressed Kamari hard down the stretch, but the Marietta senior held his ground claiming the title posting the course record of 14:55.02.

Miller remains undefeated this season going 14:55.

Rich was a stride back, crossing the mats at 14:55.41. North Hall's Andrew Jones proved back in early May he had the 'chops' to hang with future UVA 'Wahoo' team-mate Justin Wachtel when they both went sub nine minutes in a video time trial. Jones may have been holding back some for Asics, as he bested Wachtel placing 3rd overall at 14:48, with Justin 4th at 15:00. Rounding out the top 7 were Woodrow Dean of Tallassee (AL) placing 5th overall in 15:03, Michael Toppi from Viera HS (FL) was 6th place in 15:15 and Zack Truitt of Landmark Christian was 7th overall going 15:18.

Andrew Jones takes 3rd overall at 14:58

Justin Watchel finished 4th at 15:00 after future 'Wahoo' team-mate Jones.

Woodrow Dean of Tallassee claimed 5th place at 15:03.

Zack Truitt offers congratulations to Dean after finishing 7th in 15:18.

Kamari Miller poses for MileSplit Georgia post-race.

Coach Coleman commented on Kamari's performance, "It was exciting to see Kamari race with a large group of the best racers in the state. I was very happy to see him accomplish a long time goal he has had." Miller himself responded, "The race went out fast and the pack I was in went through in around 4:35 for the first mile. I caught a stitch I believe from drinking too much water before the race. It was on the right side and felt really uncomfortable. Despite the stitch, I knew how important this race was for my team so there was no way I was going to let a little ache affect me. Despite dealing with that, I was focused and felt confident in my abilities. Justin, Sam, and I switched off pacing up in the front until about mile 2. I was then able to make a move that I hoped would decide the outcome of the race. Despite the cold and fog blocking my vision, I was able to edge out Sam Rich with a sprint to the finish winning in a time of 14:55. This was my first time ever breaking the 15-minute barrier and man it felt good. Overall I felt pretty strong even with having to deal with the water cramp. This just shows what the body is able to do when you push without limits. I am very grateful that I was able to compete with some of the best guys in the southeast if not the country. I am excited to see how the rest of my season turns out! 

Sir Knight, Edward Blaha ran like a King placing 14th going 15:33.

Georgia squads dominated the championship team battles. The #2 all-classes Georgia squad of Pace Academy, made a mockery of the virtual meet article, as the class 2A Knights humbled their larger class adversaries, winning the championship team title by 10 points. The Blaha twins duo of Edward (14th overall-15:33) and George (18th overall-15:36) were the difference makers at Asics showing 'David' can slay 'Goliath' on any given Saturday. 7A Denmark had a great day, finishing 10 points back led by Ethan Ashley's 11th place effort of 15:28, with Marietta claiming third as a team behind Miller's win.

Pace boys at Chatt Hills venue

Coach Cunningham talks about Pace's race, the course, and his squad's reaction to the win "When it comes to racing we always talk about running to your current fitness level, listen to your body and run your own race. Saturday was a little different with the level of competition. This was the first time we would be going toe to toe with so many talented teams and individuals. Our plan was to embrace the challenge - be ready for a incredibly fast first mile and roll with it. The conditions were perfect for an excellent team/individual effort and the boys took full advantage of it. 

The boys loved everything about the course and the meet. They really liked the fact that it was not a pancake fast track, and they loved that it was all grass with good footing and no concrete. "This is the best course I have ever run coach" said George Blaha (the rest of the team agreed). For me, I really can't think of another course in GA that has everything you can ask for all in one beautiful location, and just 15 miles from downtown to boot.

The boys were pumped when they heard the news of a 1st place team finish, especially since it was first posted we had finished 5th. It was soon discovered that our number 5 runner was somehow left out of the results, moving us to 1st when his place was determined. It was definitely a team effort under incredible race conditions.
Girls Championship Race

Jenna Hutchins (via twitter)
The girl's championship race featured the favorite to win 2020 Locker Nationals in Jenna Hutchins of Science Hill (TN) and a slew of ultra-competitive next level individuals that would have challenged to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals and teams that would have been in contention to qualify for NXN Nationals. Once again, the best race in Georgia in many years, as the best went head to head with a big upset occurring in the team race.

Hutchins set the new course record at 16:40 which may stand for years.

As expected, junior, Jenna Hutchins burst out of the gate and disappeared from the field early. From those old-school coaches in attendance, they concurred she may the best female cross country in recent history. Hutchins was on an island of her own throughout the race and set the new course record at Chatt Hills Eventing at 16:40. Okay, guys, think about it, a girl kicked many of your butts today, lol. 

Madeline Hill of Waxhaw Jogging took runner-up honors clocking a 17:50.

At one time during the race, a crazy chase pack was nearly a dozen runners wide, each athlete shoulder to shoulder (watch the video) Madeline Hill of Waxhaw Jogging (Cuthbertson HS) raced to runner-up honors at 17:50. St. Pius X senior, Mary Brady was a few strides back taking 3rd overall at 17:52. Blessed Trinity junior, Kelly Ann Sutterfield claimed 4th place in a time of 17:56 and Creekview standout Makena Gates had a strong race clocking an 18:00 placing 5th overall.

Mary Brady of St. Pius X ascended to the top of the 5k XC rankings posting a 17:52.

Kelly Ann Sutterfield led Blessed Trinity to the team title going 17:56.

Makena Gates made the top 5 racing to a time of 18:00.

Hannah Schemmel of St. Pius X holds off Elle Mezzio from Riverwood.

But, the real race was now on... as a flock of up to a dozen gals were shoulder to shoulder after mile 1! And for nearly all of these ladies, it was all about winning the Alexander/Asics team title . Blessed Trinity defeated a nationally strong Bolles HS (FL) team and is firmly in control of 5A and the all-classes team rankings. St. Pius X landed in third place team-wise with Marist only 12 points back. Finally, after a month of uncertainty, the Blessed Trinity gals put their 5 best harriers on the starting line. BT has suffered the past month., but the Lady Titans fought through all the setbacks. Katie Hamfeldt and NXN finalist Hannah Miniutti were back on the starting line at Asics. Sutterfield led the way placing 4th in 17:56, but Hannah Miniutti deserves kudos laying it all on the line for the team placing 12th at 18:17 despite setbacks the past month. The Lady Titans' would have surely been an NXN finalist... St. Pius X placed 3rd as a team led by Brady and Schemmel's top 10 finishes, with Marist 12 points back in 4th sparked by Ruby Little.

Blessed Trinity at Chatt Hills

"Like many teams, our girl's team has been missing one or more of our top runners at each of our meets this season. The last race that we had everyone was at Bob Blastow. Earlier this season at AT &T we were missing Hannah Miniutti. At the Marist Tri-Meet, we were missing Hannah Miniutti, Katie Hamfeldt, and Elizabeth Shipley. So it was nice to almost have everyone back for Asics. We were still missing Elizabeth Shipley and the team is still working back to full strength. It is an exciting thought to look at our top 5 and know that they are on their way back and should only get stronger from here.

Hannah Miniutti and Ashley Thompson in a fight to the finish.

The girls did a good job of getting out well and getting a good position early on in the race, especially in such a large and talented field. They were pushed well by the competition and our girls worked to maintain or improve their position throughout the race. Kelly Ann Sutterfield and Hannah Miniutti put themselves on the lead pack of runners and worked to stay with them throughout the entire race. Kelly Ann ran her first sub 18, running 17:56, finishing fourth overall and confirming the fact that she is an individual to watch at these elite meets. Hannah ran tough in her first race back since Blastow and finished right in front of Bolles's #1. This put two runners in front of Bolles's #1. Nicole Chastain ran her first sub 19, running 18:50 and finishing right in front of Bolles's #3. Katie Hamfeldt was right behind Nicole in 18:54 and right in front of Bolles's #4. Freshman Claire Petersen lowered her pr to 19:02 and was a very strong #5 for us finishing right in front of Bolles's #5. Emma Jacobs and Kaitlyn MacKenzie had nice PR's as our #6 and #7 runners. We want to thank Milesplit for the meet preview write-up. It helped us set our sights on a very strong Bolles team. We want to thank Coach Robinson for all the work he did to make Asics happen this year and it was a great competition! We are looking forward to Coach Wood in two weeks!"

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Full Results