The 1A Private girls race last year was very close
The 1A private division has routinely produced some phenomenal runners and multiple national qualifiers. While they simply don't always have the school size to compete with some of the larger classifications, they sure do put in quite a bit of work and have some very talented runners. However, it has led to a lot of the same teams winning over and over again. This year things could change as it's possible we will have two brand new champions who have never won a team title before. We could also see two new individual champions as last year's boys champion has graduated and last year's girls champion has, sadly, not raced since mid September. We will start with the individuals.
Ellie Brewer winning the Gwinnett County Meet. Photo by Alex Burst.
Cara Joyce winning at Starrs Mill. Photo by Marc Logan.
This might be one of the best races of the entire weekend. It's definitely not an easy one to call at this point so I'll make no predictions here. Ellie Brewer of Hebron Christian has the faster season PR by a couple of seconds. She has also beaten Cara Joyce of Atlanta International head to head twice so far this year. However, that was in really deep fields where it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. Joyce seems to be at her best when she's racing up front for the win, which she absolutely will be at state. Joyce is also the defending state runner-up and will be motivated to improve on her finish from last year. Brewer is no stranger to the front of races though either and has a couple of wins this year too. Unfortunately for her Joyce won at the region meet in what was I'm guessing a more tactical race looking at the times. Joyce will do well in that situation with her 2:11 800m speed. If Brewer puts the hurt to her on the Carrollton hills then it's definitely possible the defending state 3200m champion gets the W. Again, too close to call.
Shari Brown at Starrs Mill. Photo by Marc Logan.
The next seed behind them on time is Kiley Murphy, but like I mentioned she hasn't raced since mid September so I'm worried she's injured and out. Shari Brown (Landmark) is the most likely 3rd place finisher in her absence. The freshman from Landmark is following in the footsteps of many, many talented girls who have come before her and appears on track for a very solid finish at state. She also appears to be brand new to the sport so I'm excited to see what she can do in the next few years as she learns how to push herself in that system that has time and again produced champions. After those there's a tight cluster of eight girls separated by only 26 seconds. Some of them are experienced and some of them are newer to this position. There are at least 6 podium spots up for grabs, so expect to see the following fighting for them: Elizabeth Shaylor (North Cobb Christian), Luna McCauley (Paideia), Brooke Browning (Hebron), Megan Walter (Paideia), Kendall Lynes (Savannah Christian), Lillie Mealor (FPD), Sarah Harrison (Athens Academy), and Tatum McKinnis (Holy Innocents').
Joe Sapone is a heavy favorite on Saturday. Photo by Marc Logan
This race could prove to be a little less exciting than the girls race individually. Joe Sapone, the Wingfoot XC Classic Champion, could run away with this thing early. Of course if he decides to attack sub 16:00 then go ahead and get your popcorn ready because anybody who does that on this course is truly elite. He is an interesting story as he still plays lacrosse in the spring and doesn't do track full time. But he's proven to be a true superstar as a distance runner that hopefully winning will convince him to drop that other sport and show us all what he can really do. He won't go completely unchallenged though.
Evan Prince at Starrs Mill. Photo by Marc Logan.
Taylor Wade at Starrs Mill. Photo by Marc Logan
Jon durham at Bob Blastow. Photo by Marc Logan
Evan Prince from Tallulah Falls has had an interesting season. He's put up some good times at Asics and Starrs Mill but didn't have his best day at Wingfoot. He could make things interesting as a wildcard for sure. Behind him we have a trio of Whitefield Academy runners who are ready to perform well for their team (more on that in a minute). Taylor Wade appears to be their top dog and most consistent, but he's not alone. Teammates Peyton Golden and Andrew Rothwell give them a nasty three headed monster, and who knows what they're capable of if they work together. Jon Durham is a fun story looking to come up here from South Georgia and put the city folk in their place. He has run well all season and could be a sleeper pick for this race. Others looking to contend are Jackson Scruggs (Athens Academy), Noah Kilgore (Strong Rock), Stafford McDaniel (Wesleyan), Nathan Smith (Athens Christian) and John Ryan (Savannah County Day).
Golden and Rothwell look to give Whitefield a start that nobody can beat. Photo by Marc Logan.
Whitefield Academy has yet to win a state title on the boys side. This year looks to be their year. Not only have they beaten all 1A challengers, they have performed well at big meets with all size schools, most recently the Coach Wood Invitational. They have 3 front runners who could all finish in the top 5 and appear to be on track after region. The only potential weakness is at their 5th man spot. But that is barely a weakness in this field and they should be fine in securing the win. Behind them we have a trip of the usual suspects jockeying for position in the final podium spots. Darlington has the faster times, and they can definitely perform on the big day. Holy Innocents' is currently ranked 2nd in 1A private and is very well coached. And right in between them both is Paideia who can definitely challenge for a top spot. Sitting on the outside looking in are a few teams ready to strike if there is any slip from the top top teams. Deerfield-Windsor, Wesleyan, Athens Academy, and Mount Pisgah appear to duke it out for the next few spots. This should be a good one that will have coaches scrambling for a while.
Ok, so if you go purely by time then the favorite is either Landmark Christian or Wesleyan. these two appear to be a little bit away on paper. But wouldn't it be cool if both of the 1A private teams were first time winners? Paideia has a chance to make that happen. They're ranked 2nd in the 1A private girls rankings and they've had a very solid season. I know, Landmark beat them at region. and Landmark is an amazing team, but let's give Paideia their credit for a good season and you should never count out a team hungry for the schools first ever state title. Wesleyan and Hebron are also in the mix in terms of the team battle. They have been consistently in the mix and have good coaching to keep things rolling. Athens Academy and Holy Innocents' are also in position to try to make it on the podium so we should see a fierce team battle for the final spots on Saturday. Other teams looking to make some noise are North Cobb Christian, Prince Avenue Christian, Stratford Academy, and Deerfield-Windsor.