Unsung Heroes Week Of Oct. 22-29: Radical Region Resurgence

Harley Martz is one of this week's winners

Radical Region Resurgence: Week 10 Unsung Heroes

We finally made it! All GHSA teams have completed their region meets and 256 boys' and girls' teams are looking forward to a more chill (literally and figurately) week of training before the state meet. Before we look forward too quickly, however, it's important to recognize the achievements that were reached during this last week. Teams had a chance to race in smaller meets, at different courses, and against some bitter rivals. The region meets, especially in some of the higher classifications, were some of the most competitive that we've ever seen as GA cross country continues to improve year after year. All of the runners honored today in the final Unsung Heroes before state finished in the top three of their respective regions, which is no easy feat. While these runners might not stand atop the podium at the end of the state meet, they have all concluded their region meets in a great position to compete well on November 4 or 5. Congratulations to all who made it to the end of the season, and good luck to those who have one (or a few) more race left!

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!

Girls Winners

Macy Felton, Brookwood (7A): 19:38.40 at GHSA 7A Region 4, 3rd 

7A Region 4 featured a battle between three girls (Brookwood's Felton and Allie Wardle and Parkview's Haley Primm) who had run between 18:30 and 18:50 at Asics earlier this year. While Felton ended up in third place, it was a great cap to a redemption season for the Brookwood senior ahead of state. Last season, Felton was only able to crack 20:00 once, and she finished outside of the top 100 at the state meet. This year, not only has Felton run 19:40 or faster in all six races so far this season, she's brought her team up with her. Brookwood finished 12th at state last year with two seniors in their top 5, but this squad is currently ranked sixth in 7A with an outside chance at the top 3, matching Felton's improvement. Felton and Wardle have already led this squad to a very convincing region title, and now they will have one final race to go out on a high note. 

Harley Martz, Druid Hills (4A): 20:41.05 at GHSA 4A Region 6, 2nd 

Martz has had one of the best under-the-radar seasons in Georgia this year. She won her first two races of the year by large margins, but they came at the DeKalb County Meet #3 and the open JV race of Carrollton Orthopaedic. Then she didn't race for over a month. When she returned, however, she was faster than ever, finishing 5th in the Varsity race at Coach Wood and most recently second at Region 6-4A. That was no small feat considering it was a 20:41 at the hilly Westminster home course, and she was able to beat all comers besides reigning state champion Palmer Walstad. In fact, Martz finished over 20 seconds ahead of third place. While her PR for the season "only" ranks her 18th in 4A, it would be no surprise to see her in the top 10 on November 5.  

Megan Hightower, Franklin County (3A): 20:38.77 at GHSA 3A Region 8, 3rd 

3A is not lacking for talented freshman girls. After all, the top two times in 3A have come from freshmen. However, each week seems to highlight a new up-and-coming talent. Hightower was a top 10 middle school runner in all GA for the 800, 1600, and 3200, and XC 2-mile. She began the season perhaps a little slower than she would have liked, but she has turned it on in the last seven weeks. Since September 9, Hightower ran six XC races and finished in the top three in each of them. At Region 8-3A, Hightower ran a PR of 20:38 and finished third while competing against the #2 ranked team in 3A, Oconee County. She has also been Franklin County's fastest runner all season long, and all seven of their region competitors will return next year. It's already been a memorable season for the freshman Lion, and there still remains one more chance to impress further this season.

Girls Honorable Mentions

Audrey Hotard, Habersham Central (6A): 19:05.94 at GHSA 6A Region 8, 1st 

Camryn Wommack, Jones County (5A): 20:24.59 at GHSA 5A Region 2, 1st 

Alexandra Uribe, Jeff Davis (2A): 22:16.90 at GHSA 2A Region 1, 1st 

Ansley Moore, Athens Christian (1A-DI): 21:14.85 at GHSA 1A-DI Region 8, 1st 

Kya Smith, Towns County (1A-DII): 24:22.77 at GHSA 1A-DII Region 8, 2nd

Boys Winners

Johnny McCarthy, Union Grove (5A): 16:28.97 at GHSA 5A Region 2, 1st 

A junior for Union Grove, McCarthy topped Region 2-5A by nearly 20 seconds and enters state only 13 seconds behind the #10-ranked runner in 5A. McCarthy has shown steady improvement over the past three years, and that's paying off now. Already this season, he has bested his 2021 PR (17:03) four times, including a 16:45 at Starr's Mill back in September. Since that race, McCarthy hasn't had a chance to race against top competition on a fast course, probably deflating his PR, but he's still taken advantage of the races he has run. McCarthy became both the Henry County champion and the region champion just two weeks apart. Also, McCarthy has had strong showings at state (compared to his times from those seasons) the past two years, so he could definitely be a top 10 threat if he is feeling good at state. 

John Stanczak, Columbus (3A): 17:49.20 at GHSA 3A Region 1, 2nd 

Similarly to Megan Hightower above, Stanczak is an overlooked freshman in 3A. Oconee County's Aaron Brodrick deservedly receives a lot of credit for his historic season, but Stanczak has had an incredible freshman season as well. Stanczak has finished in the top 7 of every race that he has run this season, something that not even Brodrick can say. Can he keep up this streak at state? If his region performance is an indication, there's a chance! Stanczak finished only three seconds behind #5 ranked 3A runner Sawyer McGinnis, and almost a minute ahead of third place (teammate and fellow freshman Mathew Lopez). The freshmen from Columbus also pulled their team to a region championship by 12 points over Crisp County. 

Grant Cross, Darlington (1A-DI): 16:57.96 at GHSA 1A Division 1 Region 7, 2nd 

1A Division has some serious firepower in its inaugural season, from Whitefield's Taylor Wade to Bleckley County's Luke Churchwell to Athens Christian's Nathan Smith. After those three, however, the field opens up considerably. Cross is primed to take advantage after a great region showing. At Region 7-1A Division I, Cross was barely edged out by Armuchee's Ben Owens, who owns a 16:20 PR this season. Cross also topped defending 1A Public XC champion Trace Harris. In fact, he's only finished worse than second in a single race this season. That doesn't happen by accident, and Cross will be firmly in the mix for an All-State title. He also leads Darlington's quest for a podium spot. Although they were bested by Armuchee at region as a team, Darlington appears to still be one of the top teams in 1A Division I. 

Boys Honorable Mentions

Steven McCartney, Archer (7A): 16:29.60 at GHSA 7A Region 4, 1st 

Christian Jimenez, Roswell (6A): 16:14.70 at GHSA 6A Region 7, 2nd 

Bryant Young, North Hall (4A): 17:25.70 at GHSA 4A Region 8, 3rd 

Shipley Smith, Mount Paran Christian (2A): 17:33.06 at GHSA 2A Region 6, 1st
Joe Meier, Georgia Military College Prep (1A-DII): 18:54.64 at GHSA 1A-DII Region 5, 1st