Lucy Barker from Central High school is one of this week's winners. Photo by Marc Logan
Mammoth Marks At Miniscule Meets: Unsung Heroes Week 2
Bob Blastow usually marks the end of the beginning of the XC season. The calendar turning to September always makes it feel like the middle of the season has begun. Almost all teams have run at least one race by this point, and now runners can begin chasing down their season PRs throughout the rest of the season. Bob Blastow, North Georgia Championships, and the Ridge Ferry Invitational were the three largest meets of the week. Each had very interesting team battles. At Ridge Ferry, North Paulding boys took the team title by one point over Rome, and Creekview girls held off a trio of teams to snag first place as well. At North GA Champs in Jefferson, North Hall put up a statement win on the girls' side, and West Forsyth boys barely hung on to top Roswell. Finally, at Bob Blastow, Carrollton boys continued their torrid start to the season with a 16:17 team average and Blessed Trinity girls turned in a dominant performance with four in the top 17 (with the caveat that many teams did not have their full squad racing). However, what about the 20 other races that Georgia runners participated in this past week? This week on Unsung Heroes, we'll focus on these smaller meets and recognize runners that put up standout performances under the radar. Each of the winners and honorable mentions this week finished in the top 5 of a race, and all ran very well.
As always, "Unsung Heroes" highlights athletes or teams that have been overlooked or under-recognized while competing at a high level. Three "winners" and five "honorable mentions" will be chosen from the eight GHSA classifications each week for boys and girls. Enjoy!
It was only a four-team meet, but the Tallulah Falls girls looked pretty good at their home course this week, which I imagine has to be quite hilly. Senior Chapa led the way for the Lady Indians with a solid 14:05 for the 3k. Chapa had a great track season, setting PRs in the 800, 1600, 1 mile, and 3200 in April, but her 3K time from this week matches up favorably with her fastest 3200 from track season, which is impressive for a hilly course. She will look to lead the Lady Indians' relatively deep squad to a strong finish in the new 1A D-I classification in November.
Lucy Barker, Central (4A): 21:08 at Front Runner 5 Star Stride: NGXCL #1, 1st
Barker missed the end of the last cross country season and didn't run at all in track season this spring, so she entered the season way under the radar. However, after two races, it seems the Central High junior is on another level this fall. She began the season with a 22nd-place finish at Zack Wansley, and then she blew by the competition at the Front Runners 5 Star Stride race, including teammate Lorelei Daugherty, the 10th-fastest returner from last year's 4A state meet. Barker could be one of the biggest risers in the new-look 4A classification, and Central will be all the stronger for it.
Did anyone else notice what happened at the DeKalb County Meet last Tuesday night? You could be forgiven for not paying attention to the five-team, three-mile Race 1, but there were some crazy times hit. It would be easy to write off any impressive performances as flukes of this course, but E'Tegenu handily beat Claire Shelton (the same Claire Shelton that won Bob Blastow by 30 seconds). That does not happen by accident. Because she has not had any other MileSplit performances registered, she may be new to Georgia XC, but she could be the real deal. If she puts up another race like this one, E'Tegenu will be a contender for the 5A girls' state title.
Girls Honorable Mention
Jane Monachello, Lake Oconee Academy (1A D-II): 23:04.40 at Morgan County Home Meet #1, 3rd
Georgia Meredith, Vidalia (2A): 13:45.09 at Bleckley County Clash of the Classes, 1st in sophomore race
Kolbi McBrayer, Mary Persons (3A): 22:03 at Mary Persons Bulldogs Distance Classic, 1st
Destinee Frink, South Cobb (6A): 22:43.15 at APS Series Meet #1, 1st
Tori Meyer, North Gwinnett (7A): 20:47.70 at Spikes & Spurs Classic, 3rd
Vidalia is one of the several teams that is seriously contending for second place in the 2A state meet behind Athens Academy. Seth McGregor's start to the season is a big reason why. After a track season where McGregor broke 5:00 for the first time, McGregor has torn up the trails so far this fall. He began the season by winning the Peach State Preview over a field of 167 runners (including many 2A competitors). His follow-up act was an impressive 11:30 two-mile at Bleckley County's tough XC course, a time which was comparable to the 3200s he was running in the spring. He finished only behind Bleckley County star Luke Churchwell in the 12th grade race, and his time was 38 seconds faster than the next closest senior competitor.
Every season, a few runners manage to find a gear that was previously hidden to them, resulting in a massive improvement year-to-year. Potter appears to be one of those hardworking runners. After his freshman season, Potter's PR was 20:55, which he lowered to 18:40 by his sophomore campaign last year. This year, he came roaring out of the gate by winning the Mary Persons Bulldogs Distance Classic, beating the 2021 1A Public XC runner-up Nathan Hallar by 35 seconds. I am looking forward to seeing just how high Potter can finish in the 3A state meet now that many of the top runners from last year are gone.
Sometimes, runners are unlucky to simply be placed into a tough classification because the sheer number of high-quality runners crowds them out of the spotlight. Tim Ellis fits this category as a 6A runner. He's been the top runner at Lee County since his sophomore year in 2020, and he owns very respectable PRs of 4:45 in the 1600 and 10:19 in the 3200. 6A has so many fast runners that these times put him in the back of the sectional meet, and he's never finished better than 100th at the XC state meet. However, he deserves to be noticed for his continued improvement through his senior year, as he's finished in the top three of both races in which he has participated, including a win at Walker Bethune this past Wednesday with a time nearly two minutes better than what he ran last year.
Boys Honorable Mention
Christian Baldridge, Wilcox County (1A D-II): 11:30.92 at Furlow Fast Feet Invitational, 5th (2-mile)
Michael Lynch, Mount Pisgah Christian (1A D-I): 18:15.90 at War Eagle Invitational, 3rd
Ethan Sanders, Luella (4A): 17:54.45 at Strong Rock Patriot XC Invitational, 2nd
Jacob Pullen, Maynard Jackson (5A): 18:51.99 at APS Series Meet #1, 1st
Kenton George, Newton (7A): 17:46.72 at Morgan County Home Meet #1, 1st