A Region to Remember: Unsung Heroes Week 10
In Georgia, late October is one of the best times of the year. The leaves change colors brilliantly, the summer heat finally begins to fade, and the best cross country of the year takes place. That's right, it's officially region time! For many teams, this week marks the end of the road, and the entire season of tough training, team bonding, and fast times culminates in a single race. Only four teams from each region can advance to the state meet. For those that do, the region meet is an important stepping stone where teams can make a statement that they will be serious contenders on November 5th and 6th. This week's edition of Unsung Heroes will primarily focus on runners from region meets. For runners who have run at region meets, I selected runners who helped their team reign victorious at the region meet. These runners could have placed anywhere between first and fifth on their teams, but all were crucial in securing victory. Some classifications have had any region meets yet; in those cases, I chose the most impressive performances. It's difficult to believe that there are less than two weeks left in the season, so enjoy the rankings while they last!
Somehow, no Pace runner has gained a recognition as an Unsung Hero yet this season even as the boys and girls team remain heavy favorites for the state meet. This week, that fact changes in a big way. At Region 6-2A, the Knights conquered their competition with help from Matthew Wells. Wells is the only new member to the Pace top 5 compared to last year, and he seemed to have improved drastically overnight. During his freshman season last year, Wells only ran in a few races with a PR of 18:55; this year, Wells dropped his personal best to 16:50, and his 6th-place finish at region was fourth on the team and helped Pace comfortably beat their rivals Lovett relatively comfortably.
Region 6-4A provided perhaps the most surprising result of the first batch of region meets, as the Red Devils took down heavy favorites Marist by a single point. To help seal the upset, senior Kiefer ran a 25-second personal best time to finish 3rd, less than a second behind freshman phenom Tommy Latham from Marist. Kiefer's fantastic race suddenly gives Druid Hills a speedy 1-2 punch up front with fellow senior Sage Walker, who won the race in 16:28. If Druid Hills can keep up this momentum, the 4A state meet should be a barnburner between the Red Devils, Marist, and Chestatee.
Region 5-6A was perhaps the toughest in the state, with Dalton finishing 5th with a 1-5 team average of 17:09. The champion of this tough region, by a single point over Carrollton, was Alexander. The Cougars received the performance of a lifetime by senior Leon Waine, who set a personal best by over 30 seconds. Every second was needed, as Waine finished less than a second ahead of 7th place and only two seconds ahead of 8th. This was a statement victory for Alexander, as the 6A field is wide open with no clear favorite. Any team in the top 10 should have a chance, and Waine could be the difference-maker for Alexander.
Boys Honorable Mention
ACE Charter (1A Public): 18:28 team average at Region Tune Up, 1st
Athens Academy (1A Private): 18:09 team average at Clarke Central's Gladiator Region Tune-Up, 1st
Wyatt Windham, Lumpkin County (3A): 17:56 at Harrier Harvest, 10th
Bankson Roach, Starrs Mill (5A): 16:51 at Region 2-5A XC Championship, 8th
Christian Cartier, Roswell (7A): 16:36 at Region 5 7A XC Championships, 8th
Gaylen Griner, Lanier County (1A Public): 21:11 at Coffee
Home Meet #2, 2nd
There were no region meets for 1A Public last week, but I couldn't leave Griner's performance unrecognized. The junior for Lanier County actually finished 8th in the state championship last year after MileSplit recorded only two races for Griner, both above 24 minutes, before the state meet. It's a similar story this year, as only two of her meets have been recorded on MileSplit, but this year both of her races have been under 22 minutes! Although the front of the pack is as stacked as it's ever been for 1A Public, Griner should be considered one of the favorites to take home the title based on her performances this season.
Woodward (5A): 21:20 at GA Region 3-5A XC Championship, 1st
I cheated a little bit on this one, as I couldn't choose one specific performance from Woodward's region meet to highlight. Not only did they win their region, but their top 7 and the top 7 in the race were the exact same group! A clean sweep is impressive in any situation, but to do it against three other schools in a region meet is about as good as it gets. Besides team leader Shristi Roy, who coasted to the individual title, all of Woodward's top 7 either ran a season best or very close to it. Whatever their finish at the state meet, the War Eagles can be satisfied with the most impressive region performance of the year thus far.
Iris Porter, North Gwinnett (7A): 19:38 at GA 7A Region 8 XC Championship, 2nd
North Gwinnett continued their impressive season with a statement performance at Region 8-7A, taking down rivals Mill Creek by 12 points. Porter provided the low stick for North Gwinett, nearly running a season best time and finishing just 16 seconds behind Mill Creek's Emily Guy for the individual region title. This race was just the icing on the cake for Porter, who improved by over four minutes from her first race of the season. In fact, Porter set a season-best time in each of her first 6 races of the season, and she was just three seconds from extending that streak to 7 at region. Let's see if she can cap off her dream season with a top-20 finish at the state meet!
Girls Honorable Mention
Sara Nivens, Lakeview Academy (1A Private): 21:45 at Harrier Harvest, 3rd
Kate Jonas, Pace (2A): 19:06 at GA Region 6-AA Championship, 4th
Alanna Wood, Mary Persons (3A): 21:15 at Region Tune Up, 2nd
Paris Thomas, Hampton (4A): 24:27 at GA Region 5-4A Championship, 3rd
Emily Tebeau, Cambridge (6A): 20:42 at Region 7-AAAAAA Championships, 12th