2020 GHSA XC State Meet: 7A Boys Meet Preview

2019 7A Boys state meet video

Several contenders have emerged this year. We have 2 newcomers to 7A joining the typical mainstays to make this an interesting team battle. Injuries and COVID-19 have mixed things up in XC this year, but to avoid any sort of crazy speculation, I'm going to assume teams are at full strength until otherwise noted by the athletes themselves or their coach.

Denmark: So, uh, wow. Denmark has burst onto the scene and really pulls the heel on the throat of the other 7A squads by taking 2nd overall (1st in 7A) at Asics. They skipped Coach Wood and then went on to dominate their Region meet. A team lingering in the background at the beginning of the season, Denmark now finds themselves potentially in the driver's seat for the 7A Championship. Obviously, it won't come easily, but this well-coached and well-seasoned team seems poised to complete a season for the ages come Saturday. Look for Ethan Ashley to lead the troops with Chinmay Dongari, Hayden Hare, and Tavian Anderson to support. 

Harrison: The other newcomer to 7A and pre-season favorite Harrison Hoyas aren't going to be intimidated by their former non-7A counterparts. Coming off a 4th place finish at Coach Wood (2nd in 7A) and led by individual threat Sully Shelton and another stud in his own right in Noah Connelly, the reigning Region 3 Champions appear to be hitting their stride at the right time. Those surprised by what appeared to be early season hiccups could've been a well-calculated plan to ensure this team is at its strongest when it matters most. This is a game squad, and it'll be exciting to watch them try and take down the 7A title in their debut appearance in the state's highest class. Watch out for Mark Ravenscraft and Kaden McVey trying to crack into the top 25 or so to offer big-time help.

Marietta: The top overall Georgia team at Coach Wood, The Blue Devils come into this State Championship as really one of the best teams of the last decade with multiple podium finishes and championships. They're always in the business now, and this year is no different. They feature a super stud in Kamari Miller who could ultimately be an all-time great by the time he graduates along with a good supporting cast in Jared Fortenberry and James May. If their 4 and 5 can close the gap, it could be yet another Blue Devil victory.

Lambert: The championship hopes of the Lambert Longhorns resides in the availability of Cooper Bocko. Assuming he's set to go, Lambert is as good a team as any. If Lambert is down Bocko, this is still a podium caliber squad that really speaks to the coaching, the talent, and the desire of this team. Colin Chapman is a great runner in his own right and should be a top 10 threat and will lead this squad as he has for over a month now. If you plug Denmark into Coach Wood, Lambert emerged as the #5 team in 7A, and this team historically runs well at Carrollton. They're also coming off a 2nd place finish in 2019 and will need the trio of Calvin Stilwell, Reid Latimer, and JT Pentland in order to repeat their previous success.

Norcross: The Norcross Blue Devils took 5th overall at Coach Wood and 2nd at Region in an interesting race where it appears they didn't run an all-out effort. Led by Miguel Schlicht, Norcross boasts a strong top 5 that can hang with basically anyone, but all will need to be on as there is a huge gap from 5 to 6. You only "need" 5, and Norcross has shown how good they can be if all 5 are on. This entire top 5 is 100% senior-laden, so perhaps that adds an intangible to this equation. Delfino Juarez, Elliott Januzelli, Eric Van Ness, and Yonas Chimbanda will try to end their careers on a high note. 

Mill Creek: The much improved Mill Creek Hawks look to play spoiler for their county counterpart and anyone else ranked ahead of them who falters. Coach Christie's crew has put together a strong campaign led by one of the best duos in the entire field in juniors Ethan Nordman and Jacob Peters. Both should be considered top 10 threats, and the Region 8 titleholders will look to Aidan Van Derhei, Joseph Kim, and Lance Wells for support.

Milton: Boasting 3 seniors under 16:00 at Coach Wood, Carr's Clan has had the feeling of an upstart-style team this season. They didn't blast it out of the gates, but they've looked solid down the stretch of this season. They dominated Region 5 and arguably have, at worst, the 2nd strongest 3rd man in the field. They'll need their 4 and 5 to step up big in order to improve on their current standing, but they're a well-coached team that will not go down easily.

East Coweta: East Coweta probably had the easiest path to the State Championships as they put 6 in the top 7, so perhaps they'll feel a bit more rested than some of their competition. Either way, East Coweta took 10th at State last year and found their way into the title race at Coach Wood (taking 14th). This is an up and coming program who is showing they don't need Kyle Harkabus to remain a relevant team. Matthew Moore leads this team and looks to be supported by Logan Ray and Houstan Hamby. A strong race from their 4 and 5 could assist East Coweta in improving upon last year's State finish.

Brookwood: The Brookwood Broncos are heading in an upward trend after winning their division of Coach Wood and nipping rival Parkview at Region 4 for the title. Will Bray has been a stud in the works for 3 years now, and he leads this team which features a nice mixture of old blood (Seth Wheeler and Jackson Harper) and new blood (Kadin McAllister and Jonah Harper). This is a team with a proud history and always shows up ready to go in Carrollton. They've got the experience and the youthful bravado to make some noise on Saturday if they fire on all cylinders.

Parkview: Parkview, 9th at last year's State Championship, enters the 2020 campaign looking to improve. Andrew Todd, among the most improved runners in the field, leads this squad and looks to be supported by Caden Hall, Antonio Valenti, Martin Robles, and Heyabel Tekle. Parkview should be hungry coming off a 1 point loss to neighboring Brookwood at Region, but they'll need all 5 of their runners on if they're going to move up this list. 

Other teams to consider include Archer, South Forsyth, Roswell, West Forsyth, and Walton. 

Individual Championship Threats:

Kamari Miller (Marietta) Can anyone take this kid? He enters State undefeated against all competition and hasn't lost a race since before COVID-19. He's truly only been challenged once (ASICS) but emerged victorious which shows he can handle the pressure. The Syracuse commit took 3rd last year and 6th as a sophomore, so he also historically runs this course well. Will he just take it from the gun and dare anyone to come with him like Myles Collins did last year? It may not matter. The 15:46 that Collins dropped last year is in serious jeopardy.

Sully Shelton (Harrison) Miller might just be untouchable this year, but Sully Shelton probably has the best chance to take him down. He's raced Miller several times this season, so he knows his style. He's also got a 15:13 to his name (a 6th place finish at Coach Wood) and won the 6A State Championship a year ago in a time only 2 seconds slower than what Miller ran -- albeit in different races. Either way, Shelton will look to wrap up an impressive high school career with a strong performance at State.

Ethan Ashley (Denmark) The first junior on our radar is Ethan Ashley of Denmark. Ashley has won 2 races this year and took 11th at ASICS in 15:28 against a star-studded field. He's also the reigning Region 6 champion and took 4th at State in 4A last year. It'll be important for Ashley to score as few points as possible in an attempt to lead his squad to the team victory. We all know that low sticks are incredibly important, and if it ends up being Miller singing solo, it could become a great race for 2nd place with Ashley one of the biggest threats.

Miguel Schlicht (Norcross) The senior Blue Devil has been a little up and down this season, but when he's on, he's a huge top 3 to 5 threat at State. Finishing just outside the top 10 at Coach Wood (11th, 15:29) and a strong 22nd place at ASICS, Schlicht has the big-game capability to really make it difficult for some of his counterparts come Saturday. He was 15th at State last year which makes him the #5 returner on paper, so he's right where he's supposed to be. Watch for him to mix it up Saturday. 

Sebasthian Rodriguez (Archer) Rodriguez is coming off 2 consecutive wins (Region 7, "D" race at Coach Wood) and was also 16th at ASICS. He's been top 8 every other race otherwise and has a strong finishing kick which anyone would tell you is critical at a course like Carrollton. He was 20th last year which shows strength on this course, so he's an easy top 10 threat this time around. 

James May (Marietta) A 21st place Coach Wood finish, 4th place Region 3 finish, and 11th place finish at State last year all show that James May is a top 10 contender in 2020. He's been a little back and forth with teammate Jared Fortenbury (featured later) but has good course history and a team State Title to strive for as extra motivation. It's easy for runners on a team with a super stud to be forgotten about and in the shadows, but he'll look to make believers out of people come Saturday.

Will Bray (Brookwood) Reigning Gwinnett County and Region 4 champion Will Bray also took 20th overall at ASICS and has 3 total victories this season. A notoriously hard worker, Bray will look to end his high school XC career with a top 10 finish. As the #12 returner on paper and a season trending in that direction, he'll look to put himself right there in a few days.

Jared Fortenberry (Marietta-324) Jared Fortenberry's season features several top 5 finishes and 2 strong sub-16 performances at ASICS and Coach Wood, the latter being a 16th place finisher at 15:36. The 3rd head of the Three-Headed Blue Devil Monster (dibs on that band name), Fortenberry will be key in Marietta's quest for the championship, especially if Marietta can put 3 in the top 10.

Ethan Nordman (Mill Creek) The reigning Region 8 Champ and top 20 finisher at Coach Wood (18th, 15:41), Nordman comes in as a much-improved runner from last year and has his sights set on trying to be among the few non-seniors to snag a top 10 finish. Mill Creek as a team will need a huge effort from him, and when he's on, he can hang with (and defeat) some of these guys.

Matthew Moore (East Coweta) Two victories to his name including a recent Region 2 XC title, Matthew Moore has emerged as a solid top 10 bet. A top 20 finish at Coach Wood really helps out his case as it shows proficiency in a loaded field, so Moore should be one of the many faces we see vying for the coveted top 10 at 7A

Other athletes to keep an eye on are: Noah Connelly (Harrison), the duo of Jack Petkash and Hayden Marshall (Milton), Cooper Bocko (if competing - Lambert), Jacob Peters (Mill Creek), the duo of Andrew Todd and Caden Hall (Parkview), Delfino Juarez (Norcross), Colin Chapman (Lambert), and Miles Ferguson (Archer).