Georgia XC 1A Pub. State Meet Preview: Armuchee Gets 4 Wins?

Girls 1A Public was a very impressive race from Shelby Green last year

Meet Previews by Class:
1A Pub. | 1A Priv. | 2A 3A 4A | 5A 6A | 7A Boys | 7A Girls 

This year in 1A Public, we have some of the most impressive teams and individuals in the eight-year history of the classification. It's great to see the improvement made by these teams, and hopefully it will culminate in one of the most exciting races of the day on Saturday. Like the old saying goes, save the best for last, and the 1A Public races will be the final races of the day on November 6. It's possible we could have two first-time team state champions and two first-time individual champions! First, let's find out who the favorites are.

Girls Teams

Marisa Kimple at state last year. Photo by Marc Logan

Armuchee burst onto the scene last year, taking home the first-place trophy for the first time in school history. They return their top two runners from last year's team, in Shelby Green and Marissa Kimple. Green and Kimple have once again been incredible for the Indians and are favorites to go 1-2 in the state again. However, they came into the season with some questions at the 3-5 spots. Freshman Sophie Thacker has filled the #3 spot very nicely for Armuchee, and she is running her best at the perfect time. All Armuchee's 4-6 runners (Lilith Dew, Alejandra Aldana, and Peyton Alford) are capable of running in the low 25s at the state meet, and if they are "on", it will be difficult to catch them. Three teams have the best chance to pull off the upset, however. The first team is ACE Charter, a team that boasted a miniscule 51-second 1 through 6 split at their region meet. With freshmen Collier Marbut and Chiamaka Okeiyi leading the charge, ACE could regain their title that they last won in 2019. Atlanta Classical looks to cap off a very impressive season with a finish in the top two or three. If their leaders Anna Robbins and Flora Tyler can score some low points, Atlanta Classical has the depth to shock everyone and avenge their defeat at region 6-A to Armuchee. Finally, Barrow Arts & Sciences also boats depth to go with low stick Smita Carroll and should be in the mix. Gordon Lee, Georgia Military College, and Commerce all have the tools to get on the podium if they put together a good race on Saturday.

Girls Individuals

Shelby Green at state last year. Photo by Marc Logan

Could we see multiple runners break the 1A Public record this year? 6 of the top 8 runners from last year's meet return, plus some speedy freshmen have entered the mix. In a normal season, Shelby Green would be the comfortable favorite to defend last year's state that she won with a 1A Public record of 20:01 at Carrollton. Even though she hasn't lost a step and has run four races under 20:00 this season, Green comes in as a slight underdog to teammate Marissa Kimple. Kimple was the runner-up at last year's meet and won the 3200m in the spring. This season, she has taken her game to a new level with five victories in her last six races and a season best of 19:26, which leads the state. They will be pushed by Georgia Military's Jada Warren, who finished third last year and boasts a season best of 21:04. Warren hasn't finished worse than fourth place in any of her eight races this season and will look to continue that streak at state. Paden Bell and Ermay Vazquez of Commerce finished within 5 seconds of each other to grab the top two spots at region 8-A; both have season bests of 21:30 or better and experience at Carrollton. Flora Tyler (Atlanta Classical), Jane Monachello (Lake Oconee), Smita Carroll (Barrow Arts & Sciences) and Sophie Thacker (Armuchee) should be contenders for a top 10 spot. Finally, Gaylen Griner of Lanier County comes in as a wild card. Griner finished 8th at state last year, but she's only run two races on MileSplit this season, and both were massive PRs under 22 minutes. She has the speed to race with Green and Kimple if she is feeling it on Saturday.

Boys Teams

Nathan Hallar is looking to lead ACe to an upset in the boys team race. Photo by Marc Logan.

On paper, Armuchee are heavy favorites to bring home their first-ever championship on Saturday. They boast both front runners (Trace Harris, Sam Lindley, and Ben Owens all have the capability to finish in the top 5) and depth (7 runners who have broken 19:00 this fall). It's been a dream season so far for the Indians, as they built off of a second-place finish last season with some speedy freshmen additions and great internal improvement. However, as has been said many times, the hills of Carrollton don't care about your success earlier in the season, so don't hand out the awards just yet. ACE Charter has the best chance to pull off the upset, as they are led by Nathan Hallar , one of the top individual favorites, and freshman standout Alexander Tunnell . However, ACE Charter's 3-5 runners will need to bring their A game to take down Armuchee. Barrow Arts & Sciences have impressive depth, as they placed six runners under 20:00 at their region meet. Can they score low enough with their top 2 to allow their 4 and 5 runner strengths to kick in? The rest of the 1A Public field is up for grabs. Gordon Lee and Trion were both bested by Armuchee at region 6-A, but both have had strong seasons that could culminate in a podium spot. Georgia Military College Prep has a history of running quite well at Carrollton and have a strong pack. Lake Oconee Academy hung tough with Barrow at region 8-A and have a low stick with Ty Wood. Add in Commerce and Atkinson County (both with 19:50 team averages using season PR), and there are six teams who have a legitimate chance to snatch the final podium spot. Finally, I would just like to mention that Wilcox County's Mason Harris was the top individual runner from last year's meet, but he very tragically passed away in July. Wilcox County has performed admirably under these circumstances, and they have a chance to break into the 1A Public top 10 for the first time ever.

Boys Individuals

Ty Wood is the top Returner from last year's race. Photo by Marc Logan

There is guaranteed to be a first-time state champion this year, as Brandon Martin's reign of terror over the 1A Public field ended after he swept the 1600m and 3200m in track last year following his second straight XC title. However, this just means that this year's race will be that much more exciting. Trace Harris of Armuchee comes in with the fastest PR after blazing a 16:43 5k at the Darlington XC Festival earlier this season. If you look at season average rather than season PR, the gap between Harris and Nathan Hallar of ACE Charter is very narrow. Hallar has finished in the top three in every race this season except his 17:14 that he ran in the Alexander/Asics championship race. Guy Mastrion of Atlanta Classical is another runner who could snatch the 1A Public championship with a good race on Saturday. He finished just two seconds behind Harris at Region 6-A and finished 5th in the Varsity B race at Wingfoot earlier this season in 17:33. Sam Lindley (Armuchee) and Alexander Tunnell (ACE Charter) are two freshmen who have spent most of the season running second on their respective teams, but both are very capable of breaking into the top five with good races. Greene County's Kzon Dennis ran an 18:40 at state last year and is peaking at the right time, with a 18:15 to win Region 8-A. If everything breaks right for him, he could be a factor for the title. Other runners who will be competing for spots in the top 10 include Ben Owens, Matthew Campbell, and Landon England of Armuchee, Ty Wood of Lake Oconee Academy, Eli Hutchins of Trion, and Liam Corbally of Atlanta Classical Academy. In addition, Wilcox County's Kadarreous Coney and Schley County's Dustin Howard are running very well after big wins at their respective region meets.