GHSA 4A State Meet Recap: Marist Girls, Chestatee Boys Amaze

4A Boys race was another great one this year

All Photos by Alex Burst - Photo Album

Meet Recaps:
1A Pub. | 1A Priv. | 2A | 3A | 4A | 5A | 6A | 7A

4A Boys - Chestatee fights off Marist again while Sage Walker is Brilliant

Matthew Schroeder with the early lead

This race delivered all sorts of drama on a day that was starting to get a little repetitive. Individually Matthew Schroeder, the Jefferson senior, decide to shoot his shot right away which forces your competitors to make a decision. Do they go with you or do they hold true to their game plan? Whether they make the right decision or not is irrelevant early in the race because you're in their head. Generally I've noticed that when somebody goes out really fast in a race you're smart to take it out quick as well to keep them in sight or they could get away - when it's just a two person race. But if you've got a pack to work with, then it's wise to let them go and work together to chase them down the second half of the race. And that's exactly what this pack did. Gavin Grater and Garrett Grater from Chestatee led the charge with Sage Walker from Druid Hills sitting on their shoulders. Caden Strickland and freshman Tommy Latham  from Marist were also in the pack biding their time. Behind them were Aaron Retana and Javier Rebollar also finding themselves in the top ten to give Chestatee an early lead. And then there was a gap to the rest of the field. 

The Chase pack working together to catch Schroder

Nothing really changed as they came up separation slope and through the halfway, but the pack did start to catch Schroeder as they headed out for the 2nd loop. In a normal race he would be done, but Schroeder definitely kept fighting in this one. Behind them we saw the Marist pack beginning to make their move as they had 5 of the next 10 places at the band field and were very tightly bunched. Was Chestatee going to pay for their aggressive start? Would Marist be able to capitalize on the weaker 5th man from Chestatee and pack it in to reverse the result from last year?

Walker coming down the final hill in the lead

As they came back around after the two mile we had a new leader, Walker. But he didn't look quite as strong as others in the race. And credit to Schreoder in 2nd at the time for fighting back after getting caught by the pack, that's not something that's easy to do. Also in the mix were Latham and Garrett Grater as others appeared to not be able to quite hold the pace. But Walker was determined to take this thing all the way to the line and that's exactly what he did. When he came across the road from the last separation slope he was clearly going to be the victor and was able to even ease up a little as he came down the final hill to enjoy the moment when he became a state champion, something he gets to claim for the rest of his life. 

Grater taking runner up

Behind him in 2nd place, Grater was able to take advantage of the smarter race and pull away for 2nd place. 3rd place went to the freshman Latham, one of the best finishes by a freshman in recent state history as he ran 16:50. There is a bright future there for sure. Gavin Grater was next taking 4th in 16:53 while Schroeder was able to hold on for 5th in 16:58.

Strickland and Retana battle on final kick

Strickland and Retana battled all the way to the line to both run 17:00 with Strickland barely beating out Retana for 6th. Rebollar came across the line in 8th while Marist put a 3rd runner in the top 9 with Everett Markwalter running 17:15. Rounding out the top 10 was the Pickens County senior Connor Hedgpeth running 17:25.

Interview with Chestatee boys once they found out they were victorious.

So all that was left to sort out now was if Marist could do enough damage with their 4-5 to take home the win. Chestatee clearly had an advantage with their top four but didn't have quite as strong of a 5th man. But it turns out Noah Peters ran a phenomenal 2nd half of the race to finish in 18th place, one spot behind the Marist 5th man to help Chestatee secure the win in the tightest race of the day. Taking home the other podium spots were Jefferson in 3rd and Pickens County in 4th, both spurred on by their front runner landing in the top 10. Jefferson had a 24 second gap from 2nd to 5th man while Pickens had two more in the top 20 but wasn't quite as strong at 4th and 5th. 

4A Girls race was a clinic that Marist girls put on

4A Girls - Marist, Marist, and more Marist

Marist girls with the low score of the meet

What a truly impressive showing from the lady War Eagles. I believe 17 points ties the low score for any team in any classification at the state meet. Marist really put on a great show for the fans to close out day one of the 2021 GHSA State Championships

Ruby Little took it out hard and Katherine Law followed

What was interesting about this thing was that the Marist top 4 ran the race differently from each other and you wonder if there were some team tactics involved to help make the 1-4 sweep possible. Ruby Little took the pace out very hard from the gun, attacking the hills very early and daring Katherine Law from Jefferson to go with her. Law was the defending champion so she wasn't going to just let the Marist sophomore get away from her without a fight. But by the time they got to the halfway hill, Little already had a large lead and Law had no choice but to sit in the gap and try to give it the best possible effort. Little cruised to victory posting the first sub 19:00 time of the meet and 2nd fastest of the weekend taking home her first cross country title without much drama at all.

Bella Brick got a strong start

It's what the Marist pack did behind her that made this race so impressive. After Law came through we saw Bella Brick from Flowery Branch in 3rd, which is not at all surprising given the season she had. After another gap there was Sydney Bohles and Ciara Sulton from Fayette County. Then another gap until we finally saw the Marist pack of Johna Grisik, Nicole Pizzo, and Kate Selover running with Druid Hills senior Katie Blount and a few others. It's always a smart move to run with the Marist pack at state. Marist 5th runner was freshman Maeve Waddell who was running just off of the main pack that had her teammates. 

Marist Trio working their way through the field

As they came around the second loop, Law had a gap on Brick and Brick had a gap on everybody else, but the Marist girls were moving and it was a struggle for anybody else to stay with them. They were able to catch Brick by the two mile and all that was left to wonder was if they were going to be good enough to catch Law, who is a fantastic runner with a great resume. That question was answered when they came off the band field holding 2-3-4 as they went up the final hill. Grisik was 2nd in 19:40 followed by Pizzo in 19:45 and Selover in 19:49. It was a true show of how to work together as a pack. Law was able to hold on for 5th in 20:07 and Brick took 6th in  20:22. But then Waddell was able to take 7th giving Marist the win and only two points away from a perfect score. Blount held on for 8th place while the Fayette County duo of Bohles and Sulton took the final two individual podium spots.

Anna Ayers of Central High School helping them take 3rd place

Jefferson girls were able to take 2nd place with 101 points thanks to Law leading the charge for them and holding strong enough at 2-5. Central High School actually had the next fastest 5th runner behind Marist and took 3rd with 116 points and a 1-5 pack that was only separated by 11 places. They were led by Anna Ayers and Lorelei Daugherty in 17th and 18th. Flowery Branch grabbed the final team trophy with 140 points spurred on by the top 11 finishes of Brick and Sadie Watson.