2021 7A State Championships Preview
What began as a downright duel between Marietta and Hillgrove turned into a 3 way affair as Harrison swooped in late. With all 3 of these teams being in the same region, we were treated to perhaps the best Region Championship race in recent memory with Marietta reigning supreme. Will they stay atop the mountain? What could be as fun or more fun is that you could seriously just take about 8 other teams' colors and logos, show them to your 3 year old sister and tell her to pick her favorite colors, and she'd have as good a chance of predicting the remaining top 10. It's that close with that many question marks. Let's get to it!
What a perfect picture to preview the 7A team title. Marietta and Hillgrove duking it out with Harrison right off the back ready to pounce and not be forgotten. Photo by Alex Burst
Marietta: Season Rankings (oldest to newest): 2, 1, 2, 3, 1
Defending 7A Champion Marietta enters as the on-paper favorite to repeat. It's been a fun battle throughout the season watching them and Hillgrove go back and forth. Add Harrison to the fold, and this could be one of the most fun and anticipated team championships ever. Marietta did get the last laugh though in winning the Region Championship. They also won the Cobb County Championship and performed well at Coach Wood (albeit still behind Hillgrove and Harrison). Kristal McQueen has been this squad's ace and has been followed closely by Maddie Jones and Nora Hart. When Marietta is on, they are the class of the field, but depth has sometimes been an issue. If they can get their 5th in before the others (something they did at Region), it could be enough to get it done. 30+ teams is far different than 6 though, and Marietta's weakest races have been in the largest fields (ie Great American), so it'll be interesting to see how they adjust. This team is used to success though, so expect them to come primed and ready to repeat.
Hillgrove: Season Rankings: 1, 2, 1, 1, 2
The 2019 State Champions have their eyes set on winning a second championship in three years, and they have shown that they have what it takes this season. The Hawks have two big victories over Marietta this season - Great American and Coach Wood - in crowds more similar to what we will see at State. Yes, the overall talent level is bigger in those 2 races, but crowds are crowds, and Hillgrove has shown to brave those elements a little better than Marietta. Experience could play a factor here as well; Hillgrove has more juniors and seniors than Marietta. Ava Brooks has consistently led this team with Reese Terza, Meghan Flanagan, Gabriela Osornio, and Kaeleigh Brooks keeping it close throughout the season. This team could have the winning formula and could be out for revenge after a narrow 1 point loss at Region only 2 weeks ago.
Harrison: Season Rankings: 3, 3, 3, 2, 3
Harrison spent the majority of the season being the favorite for 3rd place at State. They didn't appear to quite have the firepower to hang with Marietta and Hillgrove... until Coach Wood happened. Harrison's 6th place finish at Wood made them the middle of a Marietta/Hillgrove sandwich and squarely putting them in the conversation for the title. Add in the fact that all three of these teams were separated by 9 points, and you have yourself what could be a race for the ages. Individual threat Samantha McGarity leads the Hoyas. While she's got a sizable gap on her teammates, their 2-5 is still pretty strong in Ellary Hackworth , Kate Curtis, Lidia Longo, and Madisson Troupe. It should be noted that Longo, their 4th at Coach Wood, was absent from Region, so that could be the critical 9 points needed to win Region and, potentially, the missing piece to win the State Championship.
Lambert: Season Rankings: 4, 6, 6, 5, 4
Lambert's depth could prove to be a huge indicator of success in a few days as the Longhorns don't have that top stud but rather a really strong top 3 who can mix it up (or beat) other teams' 1 and 2. This places Lambert at the top of the list of final podium spot hopefuls. At Coach Wood, Lambert had 3 ladies sub 20:00 in Bella Cammarota, Amanda Feeney, and Caroline Harris. Their narrow 2 point victory over South Forsyth was done in spite of their #1 (Cammarota) being over a minute behind individual winner Carmel Yonas. With a 5th at 20:30, the evidence is clear: If Lambert's pack can get in front of the huge midrange pack at State, they've got a shot at top 4. If they don't, they won't.
South Forsyth: Season Rankings: 5, 5, 7, 4, 4
"Dear Yonas sisters: Please graduate. Love, 7A". Unfortunately for everyone else in 7A, the Yonas sisters will be together yet another year after this one. Both feature as heavy top 10 favorites with Carmel Yonas as a favorite to repeat as individual champion. South Forsyth, along with younger sister Isabel Yonas, has the best 1-2 punch in the field, but where they run into trouble is at 3-5. They can definitely do enough damage with the Yonas ladies to finish well into the top 10, but for them to find a podium spot, they'll really need to see some improvement in terms of depth. In a field of 30ish teams, there will be a lot of girls falling between SF's 2 and the rest which could prove costly.
North Gwinnett: Season Rankings: 8, 4, 4, 7, 6
North Gwinnett and South Forsyth match up about as well as the cardinal directions in their school names. North doesn't feature a true top "dog" but has a pretty interchangeable top 7. They probably won't have anyone in the top 10, but they could have every runner finish in the top 40 or so; this alone could be enough to snag the final podium spot. That's what's so fun about the team races in championships like this... teams don't have to match up well at all, yet we still see exciting races. North easily won their region behind strong performances from Iris Porter, Ellie Brink, Sacha Brickey, Tori Meyer, and Marianna Gazzara. Interestingly, Meyer was their #1 at their season opener while Gazzara has finished as high as their 2nd. This team's depth shows that if all are on at the same time, they become the favorite for the final podium spot. They won't have the firepower to mess with the top 3, but the Bulldogs have what it takes to go home with some hardware if they pack up and finish together.
Roswell: Season Rankings: 9, 8, 9, NR, 7
Roswell's ladies have been a little overshadowed by their male counterparts this season, but that doesn't mean they should be ignored when looking at potential final podium teams. They just won their Region championship and averaged sub 20:00 while doing it, so these ladies are easily able to overshoot their final ranking. They seem to be trending in a good direction, but like a couple other teams in this preview, they struggle with the bigger fields. Even so, the duo of freshman Elizabeth Stamey and sophomore Claire Hartigan went 1-2 at their region meet, so as long as the supporting cast can do their jobs, Roswell gives themselves a chance to surprise some people in Carrollton.
Milton: Season Rankings: NR, NR, 5, 6, 8
The only squad to not feature at Coach Wood, Milton's ladies have largely avoided prime Georgia competition this season with the exception being Wingfoot. At Wingfoot, Milton took 7th and finished 55 points behind Harrison and defeated previously ranked teams Norcross and Mill Creek in the process. Add that to a solid 2nd place showing at Region along with their self-proclaimed "hardest home course in Georgia" to train on, and Milton puts themselves easily in the conversation of being a podium threat. Farrah Frith and Ella Grace Malcom both broke 20:00 at Region and were followed by a tight 3-5 pack separated by only 5 seconds. The gap could be trouble for Milton, but if they can tighten that up a bit, be prepared for a Milton celebration at State.
Brookwood: Season Rankings: NR, NR, 8, 8, 9
The Broncos have two things that many teams do not: A stud, an emerging stud, and some depth. The fate of Brookwood's success at State depends on limiting points in those gaps. Led by perennial threat Allie Wardle, the Broncos didn't show in the rankings until halfway through the season but appear to be a continually improving team. Macy Felton has emerged as a strong #2, so as long as the remaining scorers can reel in Felton a bit, Brookwood has a good shot at moving up the board. Wardle is an easy top 10 threat with Felton showcasing top 20 potential. You could definitely do worse than those 2 at 1 and 2.
Parkview: Season Rankings: 6, NR, NR, 9, 10
On paper, Parkview matches up well with South Forsyth in that they have a strong 1-2 but need help at 3-5. Emma Geaney and Haley Primm are both top 10 threats in a few days, and teammate Jaimie Chen did go top 10 at the Gwinnett County Championships and top 30 at State last year. This shows a crew with a strong top 3 when everyone is on. The questions at 4 and 5 though remain to be answered. Having low sticks is so critical in a field with 30+ teams; can they minimize the damage between 1 and 5? If so, Parkview can move way up this list. If not, some of the watch list teams can make it really difficult for the Panthers.
Individual Championship Threats:
Carmel Yonas (South Forsyth):
champion Carmel Yonas needs no formal introduction. The reigning 7A queen has had yet another
dominant season as evidenced by her 15th place finish at the loaded
Southern Showcase in 18:30, her 3rd overall place finish at Coach
Wood in 18:10, and her dominant victory at Region 6. Yonas conquered the field last year in the
second half of the race; will anyone be strong enough to go with her if she
follows a similar plan? Yonas has been
getting more and more impressive as the season has progressed; she enters at
the favorite to repeat.
Samantha McGarity (Harrison)
will say McGarity enters Saturday as the favorite, and they make a really
strong argument. McGarity does have a
head-to-head victory over Carmel Yonas at Southern Showcase where she took 7th
in 18:14. She finished a strong 6th
place at Coach Wood and also won her Region championship in the loaded Region
3, downing Marietta ace Kristal McQueen by 20 seconds. She was 17th at State last year
and had only broken 20:00 twice entering this year, so this is an athlete who
clearly has worked really hard to get where she is. Region was her first win of the season (and
was top 10 in a loaded race schedule); she can easily be considered a favorite
to win the whole thing.
Emma Geaney (Parkview)
been a little up and down this season for Parkview's Emma Geaney, but when
she's on, she's shown she can be considered a threat. Her two best races of the season - her 17th
place showing at Southern Showcase in 18:34 and her Region championship in
19:07 - indicate that she should be taken seriously. She did not compete at State last year, so
she could be entering as a little bit of an underdog to those not paying as
close attention; that's a mistake that Geaney could look to expose come
Isabel Yonas (South Forsyth)
year's 9th place finisher, Isabel Yonas has had herself another fine
season. She finished top 10 at Coach
Wood in 18:37 and was also 20th at the Southern Showcase in 18:44
which shows she can still run big when it matters. She has beaten every single runner in the
field this year except for her sister and McGarity, so Isabel Yonas should find
herself in the business early on and be an easy top 3 threat - possibly more if
any of the above should falter. Much
deserving of attention, watch out for a Yonas party in Carrollton.
Ashley Thompson (Gainesville)
Last year's State runner-up was nearly 40 seconds clear of 3rd place. Thompson is another face who is used to being near the top, and while she hasn't shown to be quite as dominant this season, you'd be an idiot to just write her off completely. She could be coming into her own late in the season as she took 17th at Coach Wood in 18:53 and was runner up in her Region, losing to Carmel Yonas and actually defeating Isabel Yonas. Thompson could be reestablishing herself late in the game, and that means trouble for the rest of the field.
Kyra Andrews (Norcross)
Norcross's Kyra Andrews is a new face to top 10 contention as she only had one sub 20:00 race to her name last year and yet has only not broken 20:00 once this year - her first race. Andrews finished just outside the top 10 at ASICS (18:59) and Coach Wood (18:42) and won the Region 7 Championship with relative ease. Andrews can handle a fast pace early and isn't afraid to mix it up with the best, so while she may not be as well-known of a name as others on this list, that doesn't mean she isn't relevant. She seems poised to force the issue and make herself known in a few days.
Kristal McQueen (Marietta)
was 12th at State last year and will look to thrust herself into the
top 10. McQueen has put together a fine
season, and since her team is squarely in the conversation for the win, McQueen
really helps both herself and her team out the higher up she finishes. McQueen's best races to date include a 30th
place finish at Coach Wood and a runner-up finish at Region to rival Samantha
McGarity. She has some good upside, and
Marietta is known for finishing their season strong.
Allie Wardle (Brookwood)
place last year, Brookwood's Allie Wardle has shown the talent and drive to
repeat a finish in this realm in 2021. She took 2nd place at Region, finishing only 8 seconds behind
Emma Geaney, and went 18:47 at Great American, good enough for 32nd
place in a loaded field. She had a bit
of a hiccup at Coach Wood but clearly showed that was an anomaly. Wardle will be up there early, and if you've
ever seen her race, you know it takes a lot of drive to take her down.
Morgan Grace Sheffield (Denmark)
year's surprise 3rd place finisher, Morgan Grace Sheffield hasn't
quite looked as strong this season but still showed some signs of life with her
24th place finish at Coach Wood, running 19:05 in the process. She also took 4th overall at
Warpath showing that she can still mix it up with the studs. She has course history on her side, so if she
ends up overlooked, she could turn some heads just like she did last year at
Haley Primm (Parkview)
Parkview's Haley Primm has been rounding to form well down the stretch as evidenced by her 18th place finish at Coach Wood in 18:53 and her 3rd place finish at Region behind only Emma Geaney and Allie Wardle. Primm also finished 31st at Southern Showcase which proves that she can run well in strong fields. A top 40 finisher last year, Primm began emerging into the upper echelon in Track and will look to snag a top 10 finish in Carrollton.Other individual ladies to consider are: Ellary Hackworth (Harrison), Bella Cammarota (Lambert), Claire Shelton (Dunwoody), Maddie Jones (Marietta), Leah Pfaff (East Coweta), Emily Guy (Mill Creek), Emily Cragin (Archer), Elizabeth Stamey (Roswell), and Ava Brooks and Gabriela Osornio (Hillgrove)