Our Time to Shine: Unsung Heroes Week 8
This past weekend was a relatively quiet one, at least as quiet as October cross country can be in Georgia. Many teams were undoubtedly honing their training with some difficult practices, but most of the top individuals and teams did not race. For the schools and individuals that did race this weekend, however, the smaller playing field resulted in more recognition and medals for these ambitious squads. That's why this weekend was full of Unsung Heroes who had a chance to prove that they are running very well only a few weeks before the region meets. As the weather (hopefully) cools down later this month, I imagine we'll see many impressive performances that were built off the work runners put in now. This week we're focusing on some of the many less heralded meets that were held all around the state this past weekend; none of the winners ran in the championship races at the Jefferson Invitational or Atlanta Classic, but they are still worthy of praise. Here are the Unsung Heroes for Week 8!
As always, "Unsung Heroes" (formerly "Diamonds in the Rough") recognizes some great individual or team performances from this past week across the state of Georgia that might have flown under the radar or gone underappreciated. One "winner" or "honorable mention" is selected from each of the 8 GHSA classifications for both boys and girls. Enjoy!
Darlington (1A Private): 17:19 team average at Darlington Festival, 1st
A cursory look at the results from last year's state meet would not leave you overly impressed with Darlington's 9th-place finish; however, that only tells a small part of the story, as an incredible 5 of their top 7 runners at state were freshmen. One would expect the team to improve with that much returning talent, and improve they have, dominating several much larger schools at their home XC course. This week's race capped off a great stretch that saw Darlington finish 3rd in the small schools' race at Asics last week. The most amazing part of their team this year might be the fact that ALL of their top 10 from the Darlington meet will return to school next year.
Henderson has knocked on the door to be recognized in this space for several weeks, going back to the beginning of September. Henderson went undefeated through the first three meets of the season, then ran a lifetime PR of 17:14 on September 30, finishing second only to last week's 4A honoree Gavin Chandler. This week, Henderson ran another quick time while finishing third (second among Georgia runners) at the 173-runner boys' race at Grove Level Stampede in Dalton. Henderson should be a top-10 contender for 3A this year.
The Henry County Championships brought together all of the best schools around Henry County, especially schools from the strong Region 4-AAAAA. Townsend proved that he is the favorite to win this region for the second straight season. Townsend's 2nd-place finish was only beaten by Strong Rock standout Noah Kilgore, who will be in the mix for a top-3 finish in 1A Private this year. Townsend has quietly been putting together a very impressive campaign, finishing either under 17:00 or in the top 3 of every single race he's run this year, including a 17:21 at Carrollton back in September.
Boys Honorable Mention
Ben Owens, Armuchee (1A Public): 17:33 at Darlington Cross Country Festival, 12th
Hamdy Ismail, Riverside Military (2A): 17:53 at Atlanta Classic, 1st in 1A-4A race
Jefferson (4A): 17:32 at Jefferson Invitational, 1st
Gabriel Oliveras, Heritage (Conyers) (6A): 17:02 at Jefferson Invitational, 5th
Cade Mayfield, Marietta (7A): 16:42 at Atlanta Classic, 7th in championship race
Calvary Day School (1A Private): 24:16 team average at Hornet Invite @ Skidaway Park, 1st
The Hornet Invite down in Savannah, a weekday meet, didn't generate much "buzz" (pun intended), but perhaps it should have. Calvary Day School came up with the victory on the girls' side with a team average of 24:16 and a 1-5 split of 2:41. Even that split is a little misleading due to low stick Katie Crunkleton's quick time of 22:42. What's more, even though this course was not a PR factory for any of the other schools, every member of the Cavaliers' top 5 finished with a lifetime best in the 5K. Now that's not something you see every day!
Owen is another runner who has been having a great under-the-radar season, with a few victories at some smaller meets and a very solid 21:38 season best. This weekend, running against good competition at the tough Bleckley County course, Owen more than held her own with a 6th-place finish, only finishing behind two-time 2A runner-up Tristen Crosby, last year's 3rd-place 1A Public finisher Jada Warren, and three standouts from 3A power Savannah Arts. Owen should be a very strong contender for a top-10 spot in the 2A state meet this year, competing with runners from some of the 2A private school powers like Pace Academy and Lovett.
Edge set a personal best by over 30 seconds this weekend at the Atlanta Classic. It appears that Denmark rested some of its top runners this weekend, and Edge took full advantage. In fact, her 2nd-place finish in a field of 68 runners might undersell her accomplishment, as she beat the 3rd-place runner by over 50 seconds. Edge is an important part of a surprising Denmark squad that could make some noise in the 7A postseason if everyone is healthy, and she might be part of one of the best 1-2-3 punches in the state with Morgan Grace Sheffield and Jessica Perriello.
Girls Honorable Mention
Lilith Dew, Armuchee (1A Public): 24:04 at Darlington Cross Country Festival, 59th
Ava Coffey, Savannah Arts (3A): 21:49 at Bleckley County Invitational, 5th
Cadence Curnalia, Thomas County Central (4A): 21:52 at Bearcat Invitational, 1st
Carrington Wilson, Stockbridge (5A): 21:29 at Henry County Championships, 2nd
Lucia Loarca, Rome (6A): 20:30 at Grove Level Stampede: NGXCL Meet #4, 3rd