Kennedy Reynolds from Mount Vernon is one of the winners this week
Outstanding Octobers: Unsung Heroes Week 9
It is the time of year when every runner and coach is looking ahead to the region meets, and many will have their sights set on competing at the state meet in Carrollton during the first week of November. Here at Unsung Heroes, however, we will take a moment to pause and reflect on what runners have already accomplished this season. The official season is already 12 weeks old, and the dog days of August can seem like they were an eternity ago. Countless athletes have run times that nobody could have foreseen them running back then, maybe not even themselves. That's what makes cross country so irresistible-the knowledge that every week, you can see people compete at levels that were unimaginable just a few short months ago. Getting to highlight some of these performances through this column has been an honor. Unfortunately (for me) there will be just one more Unsung Heroes this season, after all the region meets have been completed. To all the runners who will be finishing up their seasons in the next week, good luck and may you find a second wind with 800 meters to go!
As always, "Unsung Heroes" highlights athletes who 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!
Chamblee has not made appearances at the largest meets of the season, so their boys' and girls' teams have gone under the radar this season. Their tough meet schedule, which included two of the state's toughest courses at the Kosh Klassic and the Milton Invitational, set their team up to run huge PRs in October. Pendleton has exemplified this trend, as she only broke 22:20 once in her first five races, but she has since burst through the 21:00 barrier three straight times. Last Thursday, Pendleton ran to a runner-up finish (behind only Dunwoody's Claire Shelton) at the DeKalb County Championship. Then, just two days later, she ran a massive PR by almost thirty seconds at Pickens & Grinnin' Invitational. Two great races in three days is a sign that you are in fantastic shape at the right time of the season. Pendleton will be counted on by Chamblee to break up the Decatur pack at region and lead Chamblee to the state meet.
About a minute behind Pendleton at the Pickens & Grinnin' Saturday race, two senior teammates were finishing nearly side-by-side, capping off personal best 5Ks. Leah Noble is just in her first season as a GA cross country runner, and she has been a terrific athlete for the Paladins all season long. Evie Daumeyer is a four-year runner, but her big breakthrough has come this season. Daumeyer has improved enough in the last few months to finish alongside Noble to give FCS a great top two. In fact, Fellowship Christian quietly ranks third in 2A in a virtual meet, and Noble and Daumeyer will both be looking to finish in the top 15 at state. They have both put great caps on their high school experiences with their impressive XC seasons.
Kennedy Reynolds did not run any XC races before October during her freshman year last season, and she still finished 16th at the 1A Private state meet. She followed that up this spring with a state championship in an unusual track event for XC runners-the 300 meter hurdles. And just like last season, she made her XC debut in October, running a PR by a minute at Coach Wood. I'm not sure if she has been injured this season, but either way that was an unprecedented race. Mount Vernon will be very happy to have Reynolds back, as now they immediately turn into contenders for a top 5 spot in 1A Division I. If her previous XC and track seasons are any indication, Reynolds saves her best for last, so will we see her in the top 7 at the state meet?
Girls Honorable Mentions
Elkin Regina, Norcross (7A): 19:37.66 at Coach Wood Invitational, 64th
Cecilia Hensel, Allatoona (6A): 19:14.11 at Coach Wood Invitational, 49th
Ana Miller, Starr's Mill (4A): 19:24.75 at Coach Wood Invitational, 56th
Abigail Glover, Wesleyan (3A): 20:29.13 at Coach Wood Invitational, 112th
Galilea Ramirez, Atkinson County (1A-DII): 25:51.47 at Coffee Home Meet #1, 12th
In a season where one freshman (Aaron Brodrick) is a heavy favorite to win the 3A state meet, another freshman (Jacob Jacquot) is one of the top runners on one of the state's top teams, and a third freshman (Malachi Burnett) recently ran the fastest 5K by a 9th grader in GA history, it can be difficult for other talented young runners to stand out. Jameson Pifer is right up there with that trio, and his Coach Wood time proved it. Most runners who ran both Asics and Coach Wood ran a little faster at Asics, but Pifer improved, inching his PR to 15:56 and finishing only one second behind Jacquot. Pifer has also been a part of one of the state's best and most surprising duos along with senior teammate Marc Petrucci. Pifer has a chance to end his sparkling freshman campaign with a top 15 finish at the 7A state meet, which would likely make him the top freshman in 7A's history.
Thornton has been one of Georgia's most improved runners this year, but he won't show up on any of the weekly lists due to not running at all last season. He ran during track season, however, and posted PRs of 5:53 in the 1600 and 12:02 in the 3200, times which did not at all hint at the type of XC season he would have. In his first XC race in August (and in every race since), Thornton ran faster than his 3200 PR pace, but for a 5K, and on trails instead of a track. He has also set a new PR four times this season, most recently in the Varsity race at Coach Wood. To put Thornton's performance in perspective, Jefferson's Ben Davis owns a 1600 PR that ranks 81 seconds better than Thornton's, but Davis finished just eight seconds ahead of Thornton at Coach Wood while setting a 5K PR of his own. Coach Wood also marked the first time Thornton finished as Central's top runner this year.
The October 6 rankings on MileSplit showed Atkinson County in the #1 spot for 1A-DII for the first time this season. If they hold, that would be very impressive after a 9th place finish in the 1A Public state meet last year. Sanchez ran his first XC races this season, and he has improved greatly throughout the season. Sanchez has steadily improved his PR from 21:00 in August, to 20:00 in September, to 17:59 at the Red Flame Classic on October 6. The latter race was on a super-fast course, but Sanchez showed his improvement was no fluke by breaking 19 minutes again at the Coffee Home Meet last week. He finished as the second runner for Atkinson County and is ranked sixth in all 1A-DII right now. As a bonus, Atkinson County might also be the only team in Georgia to have their whole top 6 feature a "Z" in their last names.
Boys Honorable Mentions
Loden Kohrman, Blessed Trinity (6A): 15:58.04 at Coach Wood Invitational, 31st
Tyler Jones, Woodland (5A): 16:23.90 at Pickens & Grinnin' Invitational, 2nd in Saturday race
Noah Scheuer, Oconee County (3A): 17:37.94 at Coach Wood Invitational, 181st
Joe Daumeyer, Fellowship Christian (2A): 17:18.40 at Pickens & Grinnin' Invitational, 7th in Saturday race
Harris Flynn, Mount Vernon (1A-DI): 16:40.07 at Coach Wood Invitational, 6th