Kiley Murphy is the defending state champion. Can she repeat as champ? Photo by Marc Logan
I will preface this preview with the comment that it is all based on looking at returning runners from the 2020 season. Surely there will be teams who have incoming runners I do not know about that will shake up this preview and make for a fun season!
2021 Class A Private Boys Cross Country Season Preview
For the boys of Class A Private, it looks like Whitefield Academy is the team to beat. After Whitefield, many of the usual Class A Private suspects of Holy Innocents, Paideia, and Wesleyan look to make the podium but a number of schools should compete for podium spots.
Based solely on returning runners, the clear favorites look to be the boys from Whitefield. New Head Coach Jesse Holthus has stepped into a great situation, as Whitefield returns their entire top 7 from last season but the addition of freshman, Cavin Estep, might provide the depth that has eluded them in past seasons.
After these Whitefield, there are a number of teams who look to fight for a podium position. Holy Innocents' boys have been close to breaking through a number of times over the past decade and winning their first boys state championship, and they look to have another strong team this season with 5 of their top 7 runners returning. Led by the growing legend that is Joe Sapone, the Golden Bears should be a force by the end of the season. Mount Pisgah looks to build on a strong track season, and with 6 of their top 7 runners returning, including standout Max Tucker. The depth that Mount Pisgah has assembled is impressive, and should pay off by season's end. Despite the loss of Elijah McCauley and Sam Colton to graduation, Paideia returns 5 of their top 7 and looks to have a great core of upcoming runners to start the season. Defending 2020 state champion, Wesleyan, has a lot to replace after graduating three top 10 finishers and their 5th man from last season's state meet. The Wolves will be led by senior, Stafford McDaniel. Additional teams that could be in the mix for a podium spot are Darlington, Athens Christian, Deerfield Windsor, and Athens Academy.
Top 10 Individual Preview
- Joe Sapone (11th) Holy Innocents' - PR's of 15:58/9:19/4:16/1:56
- Evan Prince (12th) Tallulah Falls School - PR's of 15:42/9:29/4:22/1:58
- Taylor Wade (11th) Whitefield Academy - PR's of 16:40/9:44/4:33
- Peyton Golden (12th) Whitefield Academy - PR's of 16:50/9:37/4:36
- Jackson Scruggs (11th) Athens Academy - PR's of 16:28/9:47/4:29
- Nathan Smith (10th) Athens Christian - PR's of 16:51/9:37/4:48
- Jon Durham (12th) Deerfield Windsor - PR's of 16:02/9:55/4:37
- Noah Kilgore (12th) Strong Rock - PR's of 16:32/9:36/4:28
- Stafford McDaniel (12th) Wesleyan School - PR's of 16:13/9:57/4:31/2:01
- Sebastian Nandkeolyar (12th) Whitefield Academy - PR's of 16:51/10:15/4:44
2021 Class A Private Girls Cross Country Season Preview
For the girls of Class A Private, it looks like we could see the same top 7 teams from 2020 finishing in the top 7 team places come November. After these 7 teams, it appears that there are another 5 schools vying for a top 10 team finish.
In 2020, the Wesleyan Wolves girls squad shocked everyone by winning with their first runner finishing in the 19th scoring position overall. That is a rare feat, but when you realize that their 5th scorer scored 28 points, it makes a little more sense. This season, it looks like there could be a logjam between the top 5 teams contending for the state title with Landmark, Hebron, Holy Innocents', Athens Academy, and Wesleyan all having a legitimate shot to win. Landmark looks to have a resurgence on the girl's squad, having already posted great times at the Shelli Roden Invitational and the Cherokee County Classic, led by freshman Shari Brown. Holy Innocents' looks to have another powerful squad led by junior, Reese Neumann, and they are always in the mix along with Athens Academy who will count heavily on Sarah Harrison. Hebron put three runners (Ellie Brewer, Brooke Browning & Georgia Piper) in the top 10 last season but will need to develop depth to bring home their first title.
After those top five, look for Paideia, North Cobb Christian, Stratford Academy, and Deerfield Windsor.
Top 10 Individual Preview
- Kiley Murphy (11th) Brookstone - PR's of 17:54/10:52/5:15
- Cara Joyce (12th) Atlanta International - PR's of 18:03/4:57/2:11
- Ellie Brewer (12th) Hebron - PR's of 18:29/11:18/5:10/2:20
- Brooke Browning (12th) Hebron - PR's of 18:11/11:22/5:15/2:18
- Kendall Lines (12th) Savannah Christian - PR's of 19:22/11:43/5:26
- Luna McCauley (12th) Paideia - PR's of 18:44/11:41/5:14/2:17
- Megan Walter (11th) Paideia - PR's of 19:37/12:02/5:38
- Reese Neumann (11th) Holy Innocents' - PR's of 19:13/12:01/5:35
- Reese Martin (10th) Holy Innocents' - PR of 19:16
- Lillie Mealor (12th) First Presbyterian Day School - PR's of 21:28/11:46/5:21