2019 7A Girls state video
Foreword: This has been easily the most mentally challenging season this sport has seen in decades, possibly ever. Before I begin these previews, I want to say THANK YOU to all the coaches, athletes, parents, timers, contributors, and really anybody who has had a hand in keeping this season alive. These kids will have plenty of memories of this time in their life, and my hope is Cross Country 2020 is a positive one. We do this for them, but I think I speak for all coaches when I say this has helped ME personally during all this. I'm a husband, a father, a teacher, a son… but I AM A COACH and somehow this is the "title" that resonates the most right now -- if that makes any sense at all. Anyway -- off to the previews which I will aim to keep as positive as possible. No "best race / worst race" or anything super critical this year -- just celebrating good seasons in terrible circumstances and seeing what everyone has come Saturday. I hope you enjoy it!
This year has seen Marietta and Hillgrove emerge as the two favorites, but neither are completely invulnerable. A handful of other teams in Lambert, South Forsyth, Mill Creek, Parkview, and Etowah have all shown signs of podium-caliber teams when everything "hits" right. My bet would be your 4 podium teams come from this list of 7, but a few more linger in the background and could provide the Upset Special in a year unlike any other.
Marietta: Marietta opened up the season with a 2nd place finish (1st in 7A) at Bob Blastow and have looked strong all season. A 5 point victory over Hillgrove at their County Championships, a 4th overall (1st in 7A) finish at Coach Wood, and a 2nd place finish at Region (just behind Hillgrove) highlight this team's campaign. One thing is for certain: This team is battle-tested, and if the duels with Hillgrove throughout the season are any indication, we're in for quite the treat on Saturday. The quad of Hattie Rydinsky, Kristal McQueen, Betsy Gordon, and Macie Pfeuffer lead this squad. Coach Jack Coleman, the best high school coach in Georgia in my opinion (and the worst high school coach in Georgia in his opinion), always has his teams ready for the big stage, and in a year like this, his squad has shown consistency and desire. The "virtual" meet gives them a 15 point edge, but paper champions don't mean much if it can't be done on the big day. If Marietta can get their 5th in close enough to their top 4, it could be a huge day for the Lady Blue Devils.
Lambert: The Lady Longhorns seem to be getting hot at the right time coming off a 7th place (3rd in 7A) finish at Coach Wood and a 2nd place finish at Region 6 (featuring 3 in the top 10). While Lambert does lack the true front runner, they are probably the deepest team in the field which could really work to their advantage in an overly crowded 32 team 7A field. Charlotte Lawson and Bella Cammarota lead Tigue's ladies, and in a field of over 200 runners, they could finish with at least 5 in the top 50, possibly 6. If a couple of the more star-laden teams have an athlete falter, watch out for Lambert.
South Forsyth: Speaking of getting hot at the right time, South Forsyth, who was a very late addition to the party this season, all of a sudden finds themselves in a position to do something special on Saturday. They pulled a minor upset in beating Lambert at Region and also had 3 teams in the top 10 positions. Depth also plays into SF's hands as they've got 6 ladies projected to be in the top 60 including 2 top 10 threats (and an individual title hopeful in Carmel Yonas). Backed by sister Isabel and another freshman in Molly Hanlan, South Forsyth could be the best pick to down Marietta or Hillgrove should either of them struggle. They've got 2 front runners (1 being a super stud) and depth. Both have shown time and again to be critical on the hills of Carrollton.
Mill Creek: It's been since 2016 (Brookwood, 2nd) that a Gwinnett County ladies' team has made the podium, and Mill Creek is 1 of 2 who could end that trend. They just won their region championship and took 9th (5th in 7A) at Coach Wood. Senior Isabelle Hahn has come alive at the right time for the Lady Hawks, and her supporting staff of Edith Kahiga and Emily Guy give these ladies a strong 1-2-3 punch which could really help them on Saturday. As everyone knows, the critical 4 and 5 finishers don't always get the glory but arguably score the most critical points. Look for Kathryn Scales and Andrea Montes to try and keep it close to the top 3. This is a hungry team that runs with a lot of heart; don't sleep on them this Saturday.
Parkview: Back-to-back County and Region championships have headlined the Lady Panthers, but this friendly rivalry with Mill Creek has the most recent checkered flag in the Lady Hawks' garage as they edged Parkview at Coach Wood. Still, Parkview comes in with a 10th place finish at Coach Wood, and it should be noted that only 28 points separated the #4 7A team and Parkview (#6 in 7A). Parkview has a strong top 4 in Emma Geaney, Abi Debebe, Jaimie Chen, and Haley Primm, but the all-important 5th finisher has been a hurdle for these ladies. If all 5 are on, we could see 1 (maybe 2!) Gwinnett teams break the podium-less streak on Saturday.
Etowah: Yet another top ladies team featured in the Coach Wood Championship race was Etowah who came through as the #7 7A squad. Makenna Calbert leads this squad, and probably the most significant accolade they've accomplished is the Region 5 Championship. Depth is a strength for this team as their entire top 7 are projected to contend in the top 70. Lots of movement happens "in the pack" at State, so that could really swing Etowah in one direction or the other. Look for Makenna's sister Natalie and freshman Abbie Kallbreier to support Makenna in Etowah's trek for a podium finish.
Harrison: The Lady Hoyas need not be forgotten about. The "new kids on the block" to 7A this year, Harrison has shown they have the tools to contend with the heavier hitters. Another team with depth, Harrison could really help themselves if they're able to get their pack in front of the other deeper teams' packs (and ahead of shallower teams' 5th). Freshman Samantha McGarity, senior Allison Baker, and sophomore Lidia Longo will look to flip the script for the Lady Hoyas and prove they can run with the best of them in 7A.
North Gwinnett: Coach John Rowland's ladies feature yet another team with some strong depth in 7A, but they'll need a front runner to emerge to push them further up the food chain. In a small Region meet, North Gwinnett only lost to aforementioned Mill Creek by 10 and seemed able to go toe-to-toe with them at both Region and County. A surefire top 10 team, The Lady Bulldogs will look to ride on the coattails of region runner-up Tori Meyer and other top 5 Region finishers Jewel Lewis and Marianna Gazzara.
Walton: 7A State wouldn't be 7A State without a mention of Gower's Girls. After a slower start than usual to the campaign, the Lady Raiders narrowly lost to Harrison at Region and are led by an individual threat in senior and Region 3 champion Sarah Burwell. Hannah Walker and Emily McNeice will look to add additional spark to this squad as they attempt to finish on a high note.
Other teams to consider include Denmark, Brookwood, Milton, Roswell, and West Forsyth
Individual Championship Threats:
Makenna Calbert (Etowah): The Region 5 champion Calbert has popped off this season, and perhaps no race was more impressive than her 12th place showing at Coach Wood, downing some truly strong competition in the process. She's got 6 sub 19:00 performances to her name this season, and if she can keep it close to the 19:00 mark in Carrollton, she could find herself well into the top 10
Allie Wardle (Brookwood): The Region 4 champ Wardle is another runner who has slipped under the radar a little this season but has won her last 2 races (Region and the "D" race at Coach Wood). She really seems to have turned a corner in her season following her ASICS race, and she should have a ton of confidence in her ability to put herself in contention for the top 10.
Emma Geaney (Parkview): Top 10 in every race except Coach Wood (26th, 19:00), Geaney is yet another athlete who has shown remarkable improvement from a year ago. The top 7A finisher at Gwinnett and Region 4 runner-up (Wardle, 1st), Geaney isn't afraid to "run with the big guns" and will need to put herself up there to give the Lady Panthers a low opening score.
Other individual ladies to consider are Morgan Grace Sheffield (Denmark), Isabel Yonas (South Forsyth), the duo of Bella Cammarota and Charlotte Lawson (Lambert), the trio of Abi Debebe, Jaimie Chen, and Haley Primm (Parkview), the trio of Isabelle Hawn, Edith Kahiga, and Emily Guy (Mill Creek), and Lexi Pavese (Cherokee)