GHSA 5A State Meet Recap: Decatur Boys, Pius Girls Kill It

The 5A boys race was won by Decatur

All Photos by Marc Logan - Photo Album

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

The Decatur boys and St. Pius X girls both put up the fastest team average of the meet and topped the All Class Results Merge at the 2021 GHSA State Championships. Here's how everything played out.

5A Boys - Decatur's top four too good while Christian Gonzalez repeats

Townsend with the early lead

The race got off to a quick, but not blazing start. All of the big players were content to just let things settle in going into the mile. The pace was fast enough, so there was no need for any of the favorites to push it yet. This race was billed as closer to a trio meet up front with runners from Decatur, St. Pius X, and Blessed Trinity packing it in up front. But it was Daniel Townsend from Locust Grove that had the early lead and a pack of about 10 sitting on him ready to race. Decatur had all of their big four up in the lead pack ready to race for a podium spot while Pius only had one and Bt only had two, the rest of their team content to sit back and chase runners down.

Leaders at the halfway point of the race.

At the halfway things were starting to break up and it was the lead pack I think everybody expected to see breaking away. Christian Gonzalez of Decatur was stride for stride with Ben Rothering of BT. Zack Burke from BT was trailing them followed by William Carlton of Decatur and Ryan Boyle of Pius. There was a small gap to the next two who were breaking up the tri-meet in Townsend and Kaleb Ellis of Harris Co. Next up the hill was the other half of the big four from Decatur with Daniel Blaich and Jake Westing running in the top 10 as well followed by Andrew Lipton of Whitewater. Lurking behind everybody were the Pius boys, led by Brian Knuth and Nicolas Moore

Townsend and Harris followed by Westing and Blaich

Something clearly happened on the big hill heading towards the two mile because when the runners came into view the next time Gonzalez was gone. He must have dropped the hammer on them and never looked back. The battle now was going to be if the rest of the boys could hold on and not fall out of the top ten. Very little happened to change the order of the runners the second half of the race except that Knuth and Moore moved into striking distance of the top ten.  The gaps got a little bigger, but the order more or less remained the same.

Gonzalez enjoys his 2nd state title

When they came across the road for the last time to the final hill everybody looked gassed except Gonzalez. He clearly made them hurt and they were just hanging on. But he looked stronger than ever and absolutely deserved this win. He was the best runner in this race and while you can't blame somebody for thinking they could try to challenge him, he put them in their place on this day with a stout race, breaking 16:00 and running the 5th fastest time of the meet.

Townsend, Moore, Westing, and Knuth round out the top 10

Behind him Rothering held on for 2nd place in a fantastic finish to an up and down senior season. Then there was drama for 3rd place. Burke held onto 3rd for most of the race, but let's not forget that Carlton is a great 800m runner and he came flying down the hill attempting to steal the bronze medal. In a race that looked a little too close to call, Carlton dove at the perfect time to win out by 0.03 seconds and take 3rd while Burke had to settle for 4th as they both ran 16:25. Harris showed how strong he is by moving past Boyle to take 5th place in 16:37 to Boyle's 16:44 in 6th. Townsend held on for 7th, surviving a wild kick from Moore down the final hill as both finished with a time of 16:48. And fighting for the final two spots in the top 10 were Westing and Knuth with Westing edging Knuth 16:50 to 16:52 for 9th. In the end 9 of the top 11 spots came from the big 3 teams as Blaich ended up 11th in 17:01.

Interview with Decatur Boys after their big win

The team battle was very close...until it wasn't. Decatur started out quick with four up front and their 5-7 looking good 1000m in. But Pius and BT ran a very smart first half of the race and while they couldn't match Decatur up front with the top four, their packs were moving well. As they began the 2nd loop, Decatur's 3-4 were starting to come back and the Pius 2-5 pack were tracking them down as was the BT 3-5 runners. At this point it was anybody's race and it was going to come down to who was stronger. But by the time they came past the crowd after the two mile, Decatur showed who the big dogs really were. They still had all four high enough up front and out of reach for the Pius and BT 4th runners while their 5th was doing well too. This race was pretty much over with a mile to go and Decatur ended up winning with 46 points while Pius had 77 and BT ended up with 97. In 4th place Starrs Mill got the job done getting the final trophy. They were led by Garrett Jones who placed 14th in 17:09.

The 5A Girls race was won by St. Pius

5A girls - Von Biberstein and Pius Girls have strong performances

This race was setup to be a two team race and a two individual race. And while those two teams and individuals finished 1-2 in the end, it wasn't without some drama to go along with it. 

Von Biberstein began to pull away early into the 2nd loop

The race started off exactly as it was expected to go. The top four seeds opened up together. Grace Von Biberstein from Pius held the lead at the mile but was closely followed by Katie Hamfeldt and Kelly Ann Sutterfield from BT along with Jamie Marlowe of Midtown. Claire Petersen from BT was also up early giving them the early team lead as the Pius 2-5 sat back. But by the time they got on the band field the lead pack had started to separate, and Von Biberstein first began getting space on separation slope. Her lead slowly grew the rest of the first lap and by the time they started the second lap she was all alone and potentially heading towards glory.

Chappell leads the chase pack

But here is where things started to get interesting. The team race was setup to be a tight battle between the two Catholic Schools with Decatur lurking and ready to pounce if either of them slipped at all. Hamfeldt and Sutterfield held serve as they started loop 2 in 2nd and 3rd with Marlowe trailing. The next pack saw Lottie Chappell of North Springs leading a pack that included Petersen and also Margot Humphrey from Pius as crucial team points were on the line. Also in the chase pack was Olivia Tabron from Chamblee, Gabriela Malerba from Decatur, and Frances Butts from Chapel Hill

Sheehan and Schemmel both moving up through the field

But the main drama came from the pack that was behind them a few seconds. Pius Sophomore Jessica Sheehan had moved up into 11th place and was eyeing a top ten finish. And she was likely spurred on by her teammate - Junior Hannah Schemmel who was in 14th at this point. Schemmel was making her season debut after running 10:25 for 3200m last spring and had been moving up the entire race. As they came by 2 miles, both Schemmel and Sheehan had moved into the top ten with not much else changing. Von Biberstein still looked to be getting away, but Schemmel was now in 5th place and chasing down the top four. 

Hamfeldt took home runner up

As they came out of the woods and across the street, Von Biberstein was able to secure her first state title and was one of the few girls to break 19:00 on the weekend. Schemmel chased down as many girls as she could, but Hamfeldt was having none of it and put in a big surge with 400 to go in order to secure 2nd place in 19:14. Schemmel was 3rd in 19:24 and Marlowe was 4th in 19:26. Sutterfield rounded out a very elite top 5 group with her 19:34. 

Sutterfield holds off Humphrey

Behind Sutterfield, Humphrey was charging hard and almost broke into the top 5 by running 19:36 for 6th place. Sheehan passed half of the girls ahead of her the second loop to take 7th in 19:48 while Petersen held on for 8th in 19:58. Chappel and Malerba dueled down the final hill with Chappel taking 9th in 20:01 to Malerba's 20:02.

Pius Girls interview after their win

The team battle was one that got put away by the two mile as the Pius Girls moved up through the field during the 2nd mile. They put four girls in the top 7 and secured the win with Lane Boyle's 19th place finish in 20:34. BT had a strong runner up finish and got a fantastic race from their 4th runner, Kaitlyn Mackenzie, who was only 13 seconds behind her coach wood time. Unfortunately for them their 5th runner, Ashlei Murray, would end up in the medical tent after the race. So the score wasn't as close as it probably should have been. The battle for the 3rd place trophy turned out to be an interesting one as we saw a minor upset with Midtown taking 3rd over Decatur by 6 points thanks to a strong showing from their 5th runner Emilia Weinrobe