Hillgrove Twilight 3200 Recap: Fast Racing All Around

Ella Gibbs was the top girl last night

Hillgrove Twilight 3200m Recap

171 athletes took to the track at Hillgrove High School for their annual Hillgrove Twilight.  Everything went smoothly from start to finish (except for one restart in I believe Heat 2?), and a good time was had by all.  It's always fun seeing friends, coaches, teammates etc. all running around cheering for their teammates.  At meets like this, rules like "stay off the infield and don't kill the rye!" don't apply, so it leads to a much more relaxed and, in my opinion, enjoyable atmosphere.  If you missed out, here's a brief recap of what happened.  I'll run through the first 3 earlier heats together and then give Heats 4-7 individual billing.

The Appetizer Round - The Opening Heats

Heat 3 winner Liam Morris. Photo by Alex Burst

Aaron Littleton of Unattached (CoughMCBabyCough) opened things up with a strong sub 11:00.  The freshman, possibly wishing he was in a different heat, ran 11:49 which shows a huge jump from his 13:24 2 mile race during XC at Stage Races and 14:08 while in middle school.  He contended for top hairstyle honors, too.  On the girls side, Jillian Rovie prevailed in 12:48 to cap off a solid season for the Bronco.  In Heat 2, it was a battle of the sexes of sorts as the top 2 runners were boys while the next 2 were girls.  Logan Camp, another freshman, of Bleckley County won over Jackson Bruening of host HillgroveZoe Garcia of St. Pius X took down Lambert ace Bella Cammarota in a really fun showdown.  A medley of 7 girls and 5 guys broke 12:00 in this fun heat.  Heat 3 featured 21 finishers, all of whom broke 12:00.  Reigning supreme was Liam Morris, also of PiHi, who ran 11:11 to outlast Sawyer Kindt of Hillgrove.  The female quartet of Ava Brooks (Hillgrove), Kate Jonas (Pace), Gabriella Malerba (Decatur), and Lily Cincola (Cherokee) had a really fun showdown won by Brooks.  Their total split?  7 seconds.  Gabriella Osornio of Hillgrove and Janie Cooper of Westminster also broke 11:30.

Heat 4 - Title Girls Heat with Boys Amuck

Heat 4 girls winner Ella Gibbs and runner up Caroline Hood

What I enjoyed about this meet was that it was split by skill instead of gender.  It does beg the question of how things could've been different if the genders were split, but I like this style in a meet like this where the goal is to go run a fast time.  The top 4 finishers were all guys, led by Ben Sydell of Denmark who narrowly missed breaking 10:30.  Teammate Grayen Tait and Hillgrove's Joseph Brooks took each other to the wire, both going 10:36, with Walton's Sawyer Bailey in tow.  Four ladies broke the coveted 11:00 barrier, and all were rewarded for being able to hang with the boys.  Ella Gibbs of Bleckley County Middle School... yes, Bleckley County MIDDLE School, showed that she's going to be a thorn in the side of other GA studs for the next 4 years by running 10:44 and powering past seasoned veterans Caroline Hood, Grace Von Biberstein, and Samantha McGarity - all of whom also broke 11:00.  A quick glance at Gibbs's MileSplit profile shows 35 career races (including last night).  Number of victories?  31!  Ella Gibbs has won 89% of the races she's entered (per GA Milesplit), several of which were against high school competition in JV races.  This one takes the cake though.  She just beat some high school state champions.  Um, holy crap.  Hannah Schemmel (11:08), Clara Heppner (11:10), and Emma Geaney (11:14) turned in strong performances as well to give us 7 girls sub 11:15 in the title heat.

Heat 5 - Rising Stars?

Heat 5 winner Aaron Brodrick. Photo by Alex Burst

Heat 5 seems to include underclassmen trying to establish themselves as the studs of tomorrow along with a couple seniors trying to show they can make their Region squads in the Spring.  This race had a pack of 4 guys battling it out the entire time.  Sub 10:00 looked possible as they were clipping off 75-76 throughout the first 5 or so laps, but the pace lagged slightly in 6 and 7.  Parkview's David Garcia took the lead with about 450m to go to make his sub 10:00 bid but was caught on the kick by Oconee County 8th grader (sorry, buddy...) Aaron Brodrick - another middle school stud who will take the high schoolers to court for the next 4 years.  Tyler Jones (Woodland), Brian Knuth (Pius), and Will Ort (Mill Creek) battled tough to all break 10:10.

Heat 6 - MC Baby Isn't Going Away

Heat 6 Winner Luke Kalarickal. Photo by Alex Burst

The top 8 in Heat 6 all broke 10:00 led by winner Luke Kalarickal of Mill Creek as he pulled away late to clock a 9:42 for what could be his sole 3200m (hey - maybe he fell in love with the event last night?).  It was a fun showdown though which included some strong runners.  Dillon Watson of Woodstock, Yianni Pouthoulakis of North Gwinnett, Cory Chambers of Milton, and Carter Spohn of Pope all ran 9:50 or faster and packed up really well to create a pretty dramatic race throughout the 8 laps.  It was all a great setup leading into the title heat.

Heat 7 - Ashley Wheelin' and Dealin' both on and off the track

Heat 7 Chase pack after Ashley. Photo by Alex Burst

I think anyone with 2 legs was asked by Ethan Ashley if they could help pace this thing.  Offers ranging from handshakes to milk shakes to future college tuition payments were offered, and finally Eli Corn of East Paulding stepped up to the plate to see if he could assist Ashley in his sub-9:00 endeavor.  Corn opened up a little too quick (looked like about 15 or 16 seconds through 100m and 32 seconds through 200m) and Ashley didn't seem to want any part of it.  Over time though, Ashley began cranking out some pretty quick splits and looked like he was giving himself a shot at it.  He came through lap 7 around 8:03 which meant he needed an epic final lap to get it done.  He still closed in 62 though to punch a 9:05.  My understanding is he's eyeballing Eastbay (formerly Foot Locker), and I've got to believe he's got a strong shot to go top 10 and make a trip to Nattys.  A really talented chase pack formed once Ashley broke away.  Alabama's Woodrow Dean won the "race within the race" to go 9:13 proving he had the best kick of the bunch.  Pace Academy's Edward Blaha was next in 9:15 and was followed by Holy Innocents' Joe Sapone (9:16) and Etowah's Dru Moore's 9:19.  The pace proved a little too quick for the rest, but strong sub 9:30 performances were still turned in by Jared Fortenberry (Marietta), Andrew McGinnis (Calvary Christian), and George Blaha (Pace).

A truly fun atmosphere provided by Hillgrove last night.  Some kids will elect to shut down and enjoy Thanksgiving break free of runs while others eyeball the trio of Nike, Eastbay, and RunningLane and make their decisions on how they'll end things this Fall.  I'm excited to see this meet grow as I believe it's good for the sport and also allows some stud middle schoolers to show the high schoolers what they can do (and what they get to deal with for the foreseeable future).  Thanks to Coach Gambrell and staff for what they do for the kids!