Boys Varsity race from Cobb last year
Cobb County Championships Meet Preview
By Coach Gambrell
Cobb County has shown over the past few years that it is one of, if not the best, and most competitive county in the state which makes the Cobb County Championships a meet to watch! With most of the teams in the county in attendance this year and favorable weather, the meet is shaping up to be one you do not want to miss!
The boys team race is shaping up to be a mix of perennial county powerhouses and a private school newcomer. Whitefield Academy is looking to mix it up with the likes of Harrison, Pope and defending county champions, Marietta. I will discuss these team in order of their finish at the count meet last year.
Marietta is the defending county champions and on paper they look to have the pieces to defend that title. Marietta comes into the meet being ranked #3 in 7A and #8 All Class. Marietta has not run any of the faster course like the other teams who will be in the mix to win on Saturday so it is hard to get a true gauge of where they are at comparatively. The Blue Devils are led by Jared Fortenberry who will look to capture his first individual county championship. Marietta has run 2 meets this year finishing 2nd at the Pickens Preview with a team average of 17:04 and finishing 5th this past weekend in the championship race at Carrollton Orthopedic with a team average of 17:35. Marietta is going to need their 2-5 runners to step up and race will if they want to defend their title from last season.
Finishing 3rd last year at the county meet are the boys from Pope. Pope has 4 boys who all have the potential to finish inside the top 10. Davis Drake, Carter Spohn, Dermot Maloney and Benny Brennemen have all gone under 17 minutes this season and looked primed to challenge for the team title. They are ranked #4 in 6A and are on the watchlist for the all class rankings. They finished 5th in the Varsity Race 1 at Early Bird with a 16:45 team average and most recently finished 1st in the Varsity Large School Race at Carrollton this past weekend with a team average of 17:39. This is slightly slower than Marietta's 17:35 but the boys from Pope have shown they have the pieces to bring home the championship this year. The Greyhound's title hopes will hinge on how far up in the race their #5 runner can finish.
Whitefield Academy did not compete at the county championships last year. They come into the meet being ranked #2 in 1A-D1 and #10 All Class. They have had an impressive start to the 2022 campaign and looked primed to take home some hardware on Saturday. They are led by two athletes, Taylor Wade and Andrew Rothwell, who have run the 2 fastest times in the county this year. Freshman phenom Bo Mitchell has already run under 17 minutes this season and will look to be an important piece to the pack. The Wolfpack finished 3rd in the Varsity Race 1 at Early Bird with a stout 16:33 team average. They finished 7th in the championship race at the Starr's Mill Panther Invitational but that was not a full squad. Their best race of the season is probably this past weekend at Carrollton Orthopedic where they finished 6th in the championship race, only 11 points behind Marietta. Whitefield has shown it can mix it up with any team in the state and they can run well on a flat or hill course. Their title hopes will hinge on what their 4 and 5 runners can do on Saturday.
Harrison did not compete at the county championships last year, opting to travel to Huntsville for the Southern Showcase. They are back this year and looked poised to put their name back in the mix for top county honors. Harrison comes into the meet ranked 6th in 7A. The Hoyas are led by senior Sterling Sellier who will look to put his name in the mix for the individual county champion but the big question heading into Saturday is what Coach Scott and Coach Simmons will do with their outstanding freshman class. The Hoyas boast 4 freshman in their top 7 who have run between 17:05 and 17:27 this season. If Coach Scott and Coach Simmons opt to run these freshman down in the JV race, then the Hoyas title hopes are lost. However, if these freshmen run up in the varsity race, look out for them to be up front early and challenging for the title.
The individual race for county champion is going to be a good one. There are legitimately six boys that could come out on top on Saturday. Fortenberry of Marietta comes in as the top finisher from last years meet. Jared finished runner up last year in 16:15 and he is looking like he is ready to run faster than that on Saturday as he has opened up his season with a 16:15 run at Pickens Preview and a 16:28 run this past weekend at Carrollton. Jared has the mile speed to compete with anyone in the field so if he is with the leaders at 2 miles, this could play into his favor. Last years meet was missing some teams that have individual title contenders and those teams are back to take their shot at county bragging rights. Both Whitefield Academy and Harrison did not run at the county meet last year but come in to the meet this year with individuals who will look to mix it up at the front. Whitefield Academy boasts a strong 1-2 punch in Wade and Rothwell. They have the two fastest times in the county this year running 15:27 and 16:07 respectively. Fortenberry got the better of Wade this past weekend at Carrollton but only by 1.5 seconds. Look for Wade to challenge Fortenberry early and often. The Hoyas enter the meet with senior Sterling Sellier. Sellier last competed in the county meet in 2020 where he was 3rd in the JV race. A lot has changed in 2 years and Sellier will be looking to go out on top in his final county meet. He won the Large School Varsity race at Carrollton this past weekend in 16:44 and has a season's best of 16:19 from Pickens Preview, just 4 seconds behind Fortenberry. It wouldn't be a Cobb County Championships if boys from east Cobb didn't have their names in the mix. This year will be no different. Walton and Pope both enter the meet looking not only for team hardware but individual hardware as well. Joseph Minecci will look to improve upon his 6th place finish from last years championships. He has had a strong start to the season running 16:10 on the newly designed Berry course which puts him right in the mix with the front pack. As mentioned previously, Pope has a 4 headed monster that could see all 4 runners finish in the top 10-15 spots on Saturday. They are led by individual title threat Davis Drake. He ran 17:36 this past weekend at Carrollton but has performed better on the flatter courses running 10:05 at the Hoya 2 Mile and 16:10 at Bob Blastow.
The girls team race might be a preview of the 7A state meet with the top 3 teams from last year, Marietta, Harrison and Hillgrove, looking to duke it out on Saturday. Defending county and state champions, Marietta, look poised to defend their county title from a year ago. The Lady Blue Devils are ranked #2 in 7A but #1 All Class (clearly these rankings are done by 2 different rankers). They have had a strong start to the season winning both the Pickens Preview and the Carrollton Orthopedic Championship race last weekend. They are led by sophomore Maddie Jones, but what makes Marietta a strong team is that their pack is not far behind. This past weekend they managed just a 36 second spread from 1-5. If they can repeat that performance this weekend, they will be hard to beat.
The Lady Hoyas come in to the meet ranked #1 in 7A and #2 All Class and are led by defending county and state champion, Samantha McGarity. They finished a close second to Marietta at the Pickens Preview by a mere 2 points and ran a partial squad this past weekend at Carrolton. What earned this group a #1 7A ranking was their impressive showing two weeks ago at Starr's Mill, winning the varsity race with a team average of 19:30. They have a mix of veterans and new freshman in their top 7 and if the freshman can rise to the occasion, you can expect to see the Hoyas up front and pushing for the team title.
The Hillgrove girls finished second at last years county meet to Marietta by only 1 point. They were second in 2020 as well but were county champions in 2019. The Lady Hawks will look to regain their championship ways of 2019 and dethrone the Lady Blue Devils. Hillgrove comes into the meet ranked #9 in 7A and #10 All Class. They are coming off a second place finish to Marietta this past weekend at Carrollton although it was a distant second with the Lady Blue Devils winning by over 100 points. The girls from Hillgrove have championship racing experience and have proven in the past that they can run with the best in the state. They are led by the senior trio of Reese Terza, Gaby Osornio and Meghan Flanagan. Sophomore Talia Brown has made big improvements this year and was their top finisher at Carrollton this past weekend.
Unlike the boys race, the girls race looks to be for second place. Samantha McGarity of Harrison is the class of the field and should have no problem with the field on Saturday. As previously mentioned, she comes in as the 2021 county champion and 2021 7A state champion. She broke 11 minutes in the 3200 in the spring and has run almost 40 seconds faster than the next girl in the field. Samantha is running well and poised to defend her title. However, titles are not given out based on past performances. The race is run for a reason. Should McGarity slip up on Saturday, there will be a slew of girls looking to pounce.One of those girls is super sophomore Addison Adair of Pope. Addison had a strong freshman season where she ran a PR of 18:44 at region and finished 5th at the 6A state meet. She was 3rd at the county meet last year so she has shown she has no problem running up front. She has had a strong start to the season, dipping under 12 minutes at the Hoya 2 Mile and running 19:16 at Bob Blastow. Maddie Jones has led the Lady Blue Devils in both of their races this season and she will look to be up near the front again on Saturday. She finished 7th in last years county championship as a freshman but has made some big improvements since then. She ran 5:09 and 11:02 in the spring and has shown that she is not afraid to run up front with the best. As mentioned previously, the gap from 1-5 for Marietta was only 36 seconds so expect to see her teammates close behind. Kristal McQueen finished 4th at last years meet and teammate Colette Depasquale ran toe to toe with her this past weekend at Carrollton. Behind McGarity, Harrison throws two more girls capable of top 5 finishes in Lidia Longo and Peyton Reeves. Longo is having a huge senior season running under 12 minutes at the Hoya 2 Mile and running 19:29 at Starr's Mill a couple weeks ago. Freshman phenom Peyton Reeves has run a blazing 19:32, right behind Longo. Reese Terza of Hillgrove finished 6th in last years county meet and is coming off a 4th place finish in the 3200 in track, right behind Maddie Jones. Reese has the experience of running up front and has shown she can compete with the best. Expect to see her up front on Saturday making a push for a medal. Daniela Delgado and Ella Bailey pack a strong 1-2 for the Walton Raiders and they will look to make a run for a top 5 finish on Saturday. Delgado had a big track season in the spring and has had a strong start to her junior season. She finished 8th last year at the county championships and will look to improve upon that finish on Saturday. Ella finished 25th at last year's county meet but is coming off a strong track season. She 19:50 up at Berry and as a senior has the racing experience to contend with the best in the county.