The 5A race last year was unbelievably close. Will it be this close again this year?
The 5A state meet has an eerily similar feel to it as it had last year. The same top teams are vying for the top spot. Not all of the pieces are the same, but no matter what there are 3 very good programs on the boys side fighting for all of the marbles while the same two catholic schools are ready to duke it out on the girls side. Last year produced two thrilling races, with some extra drama on the side. So I expect these teams to put on a good show for us again.
This is a rematch for these two teams that's technically 3+ years in the making. I think most people forget that it was Blessed Trinity that took 2nd place in the 4A meet behind St. Pius X in 2019 because it was Marist that was the top ranked team all year. And then last year it was a very obvious two team battle up front between the catholic rivals who had gone 1-1 against each other on the year. Well, they're yet again 1-1 against each other this year with Blessed trinity taking the most recent matchup at the Coach Wood Invitational while St. Pius X ran the better race at the Wingfoot XC Classic. Both teams were hit hard by graduation but returned enough solid runners, and got some newcomers, to contend. After their top runners, St. Pius X boasts Lane Boyle and Ella Stone at 4-5 while Blessed Trinity has Ashlei Murray and Kaitlyn Mackenzie trying to close it out for them. There is no favorite in this one, let's just all sit back and watch the fireworks. After the top two, we appear to have a new threat who has been performing very well in the all class rankings this season. Decatur girls seem inspired by their boys to do some big things. They've got two front runners and a solid pack with Grace Osborn, Sophie D'Elena, and Helena Florence ready to pounce if either of the top two stumble. They have been very good all year and will definitely be in the mix for a trophy or more. Behind Decatur there are two more teams looking to grab a trophy to take home on the bus. McIntosh is ALWAYS good and knows how to run well at this meet. They don't have any major front runners, but they're led by Paris Alsup and Madison Stoots and boast a pack that could be separated by less than 30 seconds. And the last team I see eyeing a trophy is Midtown. They do have a front runner, but it's the impressive second half of a season that their pack has had that has them thinking trophy or more. Cary Schroeder and Sierra Pape are under 20:00 and will likely threaten for big things. Other teams in contention for the top ten are Whitewater, Woodland, Northview, Union Grove, Chamblee, and Veterans. The right day could see one of those teams go home with hardware.
The boys team race last year was crazy and took hours to learn the final result due to a power outage. Ultimately St. Pius X came away with a two point victory over Decatur. But Blessed Trinity had a scorer go down at the top of the hill, who knows what could have happened without that. This year the lead up to the state meet feels a little different though. Decatur has dominated the two catholic schools when they've raced and show no signs of slowing down. They have the firepower up front and the depth to close this thing out by the two mile. More on their top four studs, who could all find themselves in the top ten, later. But for now take a look at the fact that they also have the fastest 5-6-7 in the race too with Zakariye Abdulahi, Martin Scholl, and Jackson Lee having very good seasons and looking great late in the year. Blessed Trinity will do their best to challenge. They have two studs and a very good 3rd in Clark Bilderback. But they'll need more out of Loden Kohrman and Timothy Cole if they're going to compete for the win. Similarly, St. Pius X has a strong top 3, but will want to see Nicolas Moore and Austin Kalbas step up in a big way to challenge Decatur. These three teams have been here before and the rankings are exactly the same going into state as they were last year. The only question is if the results will be different this time. The most likely fourth best team in 5A this year is Starrs Mill. But don't count them out to sneak up and steal a better trophy from one or more of these top teams. They have a very good front runner and a pack of four that isn't far behind. they're within striking distance and if Bankson Roach, Ethan Aguilera-Morton, Denver Oates, or Grant Dougher step up with a big day don't be surprised to see them in the mix. They had a huge state track meet in Carrollton last spring, can they replicate it on Saturday? I'm not sure if I see anybody getting on top of the podium based on results so far this year. But this is state and anything can happen. The most likely contenders would be McIntosh or Locust Grove. But don't discount the chances of Northgate, Harris Co, Midtown, and Woodland.
Kelly Ann Sutterfield at Bob Blastow. Photo by Marc Logan
Jamie Marlowe at Atlanta Classic. Photo by Marc Logan
1-1 seems to be the theme of this race too, but with a twist. Grace Von Biberstein (Pius) has the fastest time and won against Katie Hamfeldt (BT) at Wingfoot. But Hamfeldt got her back at Coach Wood by 7 seconds. These two appear to be the favorites, but lets not forget that Hamfeldt's teammate Kelly Ann Sutterfield actually has the fastest PR in the field and was runner up and sub 19:00 at state two years ago as a sophomore. Her season has been kind of short compared to others for some reason, but she has shown the toughness to show up in big time races before and I'm sure she's ready to go out as a bang her senior year. The other big name in this field is Jamie Marlowe (Midtown) who got a brand new PR at region and appears to be peaking at just the right time. She did the exact same thing last track season as she ran 5:02 and 2:16 at the state track meet to take 4th place in both in what was a truly loaded field. I'm sure she will be in the mix at Carrollton and could come away victorious with that sort of 800m speed. After those top 4, there are 4 more runners who have gone under 19:00
Rylee Evans has been Ms. consistent in this classification over the years. She also absolutely killed it at state last year too so look for her to close out her senior year strong.
And last might be the most improved 5A girl this year with Gabriela Malerba who has been very consistent all year. She dipped under 19:00 but more importantly she's been in the mix in every race she's been in. Those eight should feel pretty confident about landing themselves in the top 10, but who will join them? We've got several with their eyes on the prize including Frances Butts (Chapel Hill), Gabby Parsons (Union Grove), Anna Blaich (Decatur), Margot Humphrey (St. Pius X), Emma Rice (Veterans), Olivia Tabron (Chamblee), and Jessica Sheehan (St. Pius X).
Much like the team race, this one has a feel of there is almost a clear favorite, but not quite all the way clear until they crest that final hill in Carrollton. Christian Gonzalez of Decatur will definitely look to defend his title from last year. Gonzalez is undefeated against 5A this year and has the fast times to back up that record too. He should come into Carrollton confident he can get it done. If he slips at all there are several waiting in the wings.
Garrett Jones at Blastow. Photo by Marc Logan
Kaleb Ellis at Ortho. Photo by Marc Logan.
Benjamin Rothering (BT) has been all over the place this season. But he did take the win at Blastow and was runner up against a loaded field at Wingfoot. It would be very foolish to count him out of this thing. Garrett Jones (SM) has also had an up and down year, but when he's been on he's looked good especially at Blastow and Starrs Mill. Kaleb Ellis (Harris County) has stayed away from the action most of the year, but has been solid when he's raced the big dogs, especially with his 7th place finish at Carrollton Ortho earlier this year. But maybe the most impressive thing he's done that makes me think he's a contender was the 32:24 he ran at the Peachtree Road race this summer. That's for real and he placed 33rd overall in a field of top amateurs and professional runners.
William Carlton at Starrs Mill. Photo by Marc Logan.
Gabriel Best at Blastow. Photo by Marc Logan
Ryan Boyle at Warpath. Photo by Marc Logan
Zack Burke (BT) has also been a little up and down, but he was top 10 at Ortho and he won their region meet so he should be ready to go. Andrew Lipton (Whitewater) has the fast times and steady consistency to make some noise at state as well. William Carlton (Decatur) had a big day at Coach Wood almost cracking the top 10 and he's got a big kick. Can he help Decatur go 1-2 in back to back years? Gabriel Best (Whitewater) is the last sub 16 runner on the list and will look to mix it up with the big dogs. Ryan Boyle (SPX) doesn't have the same PR as the others, but he was 3rd at state last year and is the best returner behind Gonzalez. Other runners looking to contend for a podium spot are Daniel Blaich (Decatur), Jake Westing (Decatur), Tyler Jones (Woodland), Brian Knuth (SPX), Sutter Guttery (SPX), and Daniel Townsend (Locust Grove)