2022 GIAA State Championships Meet Preview

Aine Trapp is one of the favorites this weekend in Macon

2022 GIAA State Meet Preview

Saturday October, 29th will see the first running of the GIAA State Championship in Cross Country. The GIAA was formed by the 14 A Private schools that departed the GHSA last winter and were joined by what was left of the old GISA and the larger schools of the Georgia Association of Private and Parochial Schools(GAPPS). The 72 teams in the association are divided into two classifications, AA and AAA. The inaugural meet will be held on the campus of First Presbyterian Day School in Macon. The course is not as challenging as Carrollton, but it includes enough changes in elevation and undulating terrain to favor strength over speed and racing over time trialing. 

AAA Boys - Individual

The favorite for the AAA boys individual crown is Adam Lippe of Westminster Schools of Augusta. He owns a 4:28 personal best in the mile from last summer's Wingfoot Night of Champions. He's had a healthy fall season and has broken 17 minutes in every race he's run. Competing out of Augusta, his team has hopped the border a few times and raced in South Carolina, but he did test himself in larger meets as well, securing a runner-up finish at Wingfoot by a fraction of a second and running 16:30. Lippe's 16:18 at region last week gives him the fastest personal best in AAA. 

The only other boy in AAA to run under 17 minutes is Garrison Slaughter of Deerfield-Windsor School(Albany), having done so three times, in addition to running 17:26 on FPD's course back in late September. Behind Slaughter, a number of athletes have run in the low 17s, including freshmen Jack Moore of Deerfield-Windsor and Lucas Johnson of Westminster, senior Henry Stewart of Lakeview Academy(Gainesville), and junior Christopher Morton of Loganville Christian Academy. Stratford Academy's Zane Harley did not run a 5k until his region meet, but his region title on First Presbyterian's course last week positions him nicely for state. 

AAA Boys - Team

This could be the most entertaining part of the meet. Deerfield-Windsor School(Albany), Stratford Academy(Macon), and Westminster Schools of Augusta are all capable of winning. The virtual meet offers little clarity. Using each runner's best time, Westminster wins by 3. Using each runner's average time, Deerfield-Windsor wins by 26. In a simulation merging the 6 region meets together, Westminster wins by 14. Stratford comes in third in each, but it bears mentioning that they have generally raced difficult courses throughout the year and did not run a full squad until region. 

Ultimately, the race will be won on the course and not on paper. Each team has a formidable top three. Westminster's Adam Lippe, Lucas Johnson, and Brooks Johnson have an average time of 16:59, which is marginally faster than the 17:01 average of Deerfield-Windsor's trio of Garrison Slaughter, Jack Moore, and Ethan Newsome. Stratford's top three of Zane Harley, Wes Flournoy, and Jude Burgess have not run quite as fast, but they swept the top three places at their region meet. The 5th position provides even less clarity, as each team has a 5th man with a personal best in the 18:20s. The race, then, might come down to the performance of each team's fourth runner. Westminster's Christian Vitacco has run 17:27, Deerfield's Jackson Belusko has run 17:34, and Stratford's Jack Harrington has run 18:08. With three evenly matched teams, there's little margin for error. 

AAA Girls - Individual

The top two times in AAA girls are owned by Georgy and Adda Helmers of St. Anne Pacelli Catholic School. Adda missed nearly a month of racing during September, but looks to have kept her form and ran well at Coach Wood. Georgy has performed exceptionally well on fast courses, running 19:17 and 19:20 at the Deerfield-Windsor Invitational and Coach Wood. She is the favorite, but FPD's course is no track, and the elevation gain in the back half of the race takes mental toughness and strength to navigate. This could be an equalizer that opens the door for others to make their way to the front. Kiley Murphy of Brookstone won the A private title in 2020 and ran under 18 minutes the same year. She hasn't shown that type of form lately, but as they say on LetsRun.com, talent doesn't disappear. Her teammate Elizabeth Cowley has incredible range, running 56 in the 400m and nearly breaking 20 in the 5k. Katie Casto(Pacelli), Caira Murray(Atlanta Girls School), and Valwood School's Burnette sisters could also get up front and push the pace. 

AAA Girls - Team

The favorites to win the AAA girls team race are both from Columbus: St. Anne Pacelli and Brookstone School. Pacelli's roster is unrecognizable from a year ago, with four of its top five runners being new to the program. Brookstone has a mix of newcomers that have complemented mainstays Cowley and Murphy. The schools have competed against one another twice this year. At the Deerfield-Windsor Invitational on September 17th, Brookstone bested Pacelli by 9. Pacelli returned the favor at their region meet, with their top 5 finishing before Brookstone had 3 in. It is fitting, then, that state will serve as the tiebreaker. 

The fight for 3rd and 4th place should be close. Valwood School(Valdosta) and host First Presbyterian are strong through four runners, but will need their fifth runners to step up. George Walton Academy(Monroe) won their region and is well balanced. Westfield(Perry) has run well on fast courses and would probably contend for some region titles if not for being placed in the same region as the Columbus schools.

AA Boys - Individual

Barring something bizarre happening, Hayes Trapp of Augusta Prep will win the AA boys race. Trapp owns personal bests of 4:18 and 9:17 on the track, and a stellar 15:04 at Asics a month ago garnered him a 4th place finish in the state's premier invitational. After finishing second as a freshman, Trapp has won two state championships in a row and should secure the hat trick and a new course record. With his third title in a row and his eyes likely on the post-season, Trapp is vying to put himself in the conversation with Jacob McLeod as the best non-GHSA runner in state history.

The most interesting debate in the individual race for AA boys is who will come in second. Trinity Christian(Dublin) has two low sticks in Nolan Lane and Jack Miller who have both raced this course and have personal bests of 16:30 and 16:38. Neither have raced a large invitational, but their experience in small meets where individual matchups and putting a hat on a hat matter more than racing in a pack might suit them well. They should have company up front from sub 17 athletes and region champions John Roe of Heritage Prep(Atlanta) and Aiden Keen of Highland Christian(Valdosta).

AA Boys - Team

Five teams seem to have separated from the rest of the field. Heritage Prep has experience racing in fast meets in the metro Atlanta area, and with four runners vying for top 10 finishes, they are the likely favorite. Augusta Prep has the benefit of a low stick and a team that has already won multiple state titles in the old GISA. Yet, the dynamics of racing in a pack of 200 are different from those of a race with 80 athletes where individual matchups carry more weight. In a race where only four or five runners are capable of breaking 17 and most of the pack will finish between 18 and 20 minutes, a low stick running 15:30 won't bring the same type of advantage it would at an Asics or Coach Wood. Westminster Christian Academy of Watkinsville has a strong pack and a likely all-state runner in Isaac Heydinger. Both Trinity Christian and Highland Christian have athletes who can finish near the front of the race, but each will need breakthrough performances from their 4th and 5th scorers to challenge for the win. 

AA Girls - Individual

Not unlike the AA boys race, a Trapp is the favorite to win AA girls. Aine Trapp owns a PR of 18:53 and has competed well at Asics, Coach Wood, and Starr's Mill. She's won multiple state titles in cross country and track. Her experience in elite races and knowing how to win championships, even on an unfamiliar course, provide her with an edge. Abbie Forbus of Central Fellowship(Macon) has raced this course numerous times and should be near the front. Clarissa Mallory(Highland Christian), Ruby Dozier(Augusta Prep), and Audrey-Kate Johnson(Heritage Prep) will be competitive.

AA Girls - Team

The virtual meet projects Augusta Prep's girls to take the team title with 29 points. Given that they have won before, they are the clear favorite. Behind them, Trinity Christian, Westminster Christian Academy, and Highland Christian Academy will look to fill out the rest of the podium.