State Meet Hub
2A State Meet Preview
It's all come down to this. The last big showdown in Carrollton when all the pieces to the season finally get a chance to come together. From the individuals who haven't crossed swords yet to the teams that have had their sites on each other since August, it's finally time to show and tell. Brace for some fireworks on Saturday morning when we get to, at last, erase our last few question marks from the 2A discussion boards.
BOYS INDIVIDUAL RACE:
On paper, we should be looking at a 3 person race here at the front. But what order those three will come through the chute still has an air of mystery about it. We have three runners with very different season schedules, all coming in with the mind to prove that they're top dog.
Simon Schabort- Model - Boasts the only sub-16 time in 2A this season. It came via the Wingfoot Classic which most racing fans will be familiar with, and recognize as an honest course. Outside of that, Schabort ran a 16:13 at Rome All Area and, maybe most importantly, a 16:35 earlier this season at Carrollton Orthopedic. A :40 second gap from the smooth slopes of Sam Smith Park to the rollercoaster that is Carrollton looks like a good, honest indicator that Schabort's 'for real'. For him, State looks like a matter of showing up on race day and holding off all challengers.
Eyan Zupko- Worth County - The front runner from South Georgia, there's an air of mystery surrounding Eyan Zupko. On paper, he has the potential to come in 2nd overall, with a PR of 16:02 from the Red Flame Classic. But that run was Zupko's only sub-17 effort this season. Worth County has largely stayed in the South this year, meaning we don't have many head to head duals between Zupko and the other front runners from 2A to stack his resume up against. But with three wins to his name, and such a fast time coming from his most recent race of the season, there's always the possibility that Zupko's one shot at the other big teams will turn out to be the only shot he needs.
Jackson Scruggs- Athens Academy- Jackson Scruggs sees Zupko's three wins this season, and he'll raise him a fourth. Though Scruggs' PR is a bit behind Zupko's (16:14), we have seen the leader of Athens Academy be more consistent churning out that time. Scruggs has never run slower than 16:37 this whole season. Despite course conditions, competition sizes, or any other variables we could come up with, Scruggs has maintained a :23 second range through everything. That's consistent if I've ever heard of it. And coming to a course like Carrollton, sometimes that consistency and a built-in mental toughness turns out to be the deciding factor on race day.
Others to watch:
Will Deloach- Athens Academy, Zechariah Prater- Fannin County, Nathan Hallar- ACE Charter, and Pepper Davis- Banks County have all broken 17 this season and have the potential to hit November hard.
BOYS TEAM RACE:
ATHENS ACADEMY- By all accounts, this should be Athens Academy's championship to lose. With two runners sub-17, and all 5 scorers sub-18, we can expect to see Athens Academy loading up the front of the field with a tight enough, fast enough, pack to get things done. Where things can get tricky though, is if the Spartans end up needing their 6th or 7th runners for some reason. There's a sizable gap from their Meyer/Dillon/Hequembourg 3/4/5 punch to their next ups. Look for Athens Academy to use their strong 5 to control the race early, but if any shenanigans ensue, then things could start to get interesting.
Something working in Vidalia's favor, beyond just their fast times and a tight 1-5 spread, is the fact that all of their racers are seeing Carrollton for the second time this season, and all of their major scorers performed well on this course back in September. There's always the big discussion about how much familiarity with the course really impacts your races in November, but surely a strong showing on this course bodes well for Vidalia to have a strong showing again. Vidalia came in 5th in the Carrollton Orthopedic Small Race and has only stayed strong and consistent since that big team day.
Between Mount Paran and Vidalia, there's going to be a strong fight for 2nd and 3rd place at the State Meet. Mount Paran has seen some ups and downs this season, as evidenced by their three rounds at Clinton Farms. In August at the Zach Wansley Clash, MPC averaged 18:55 with a 1:55 spread. Then in October, at the Atlanta Classic, that turned into a 20:14 average with a 3:31 spread. Finally at Region (same course) they came back with an 18:31 average and a 2:17 spread. Accounting for possible missing/sick runners, heavy workout weeks, or any other factors that could have caused the wobble, it's clear that Mount Paran has a strong, formidable squad, top to bottom. And if they put it all together at State, then they could do serious damage to Vidalia or Athens Academy teams that are off their games. Look for Shipley Smith to lead the charge, and for Giovanni and Joseph Ferary to work together through the hills as a powerful ⅔ punch for the Eagles.
MODEL vs FANNIN COUNTY
The Region 7-AA teams come into Carrollton having just squared off in Rome. Fannin County has been powering up the AA rankings all season, led by Zechariah Prater, while Model has been consistently sitting at 4th or 5th since rankings dawned in September. Though Model got the better of Fannin County in their small region, the crowded field at Carrollton is going to hit differently. The hills, plus just the size of the race, may work to benefit Fannin County who has a strong front runner that can create some separation in points, whereas a strong front runner doesn't benefit as much in a small meet. We have these teams seeded 4th/5th, but a big day from either of these squads could propel them higher up the podium. Can Model hold off their Region 7 rivals to take the podium? Or is this the race where Fannin County claps back?
GIRLS INDIVIDUAL RACE:
As with the boys' race, this looks like it will be a three-athlete showdown. Margaret Wade is the only 2A girl to break 18 this season, with Shari Brown and Ava Coffey both sub-19. But we know how this goes. Carrollton is a "strength" course, not a "speed" course and those hills have played the equalizer in some crazy races before. Looking at these ladies one at a time-
Margaret Wade- Savannah Arts Academy- Margaret has been the picture of consistency this season. 1st place in every race except for Asics where she came in an admirable second to Jillian Candelino from Bolles, FL. The most noteworthy win for me is, clearly, her first place at Carrollton Orthopedic from earlier this season. Carrollton is a strength course, not a speed course? Doesn't matter to Margaret. She can win on both, putting a 21 second gap on Bella Cammarota from Lambert when she last traveled West in a trial run for State. Big race vs small race? Doesn't matter. Margaret has boasted success in both kinds of fields. If Margaret goes out and performs like she has all season, it's unlikely anybody challenges her through the last mile...
Shari Brown- Landmark Christian- ...but if anybody IS going to challenge Wade for the title, it looks like it's going to be Shari Brown. Shari also boasts a number of significant wins this season. Wins at Folkes, Skyhawk, and the Coach Wood Varsity Race are nothing to shrug at. And Shari seems poised for a big breakout race sometime soon, having run 18:50-19:10 four different times from August to October. If November is when that plateau finally crumbles, then look out. As with Margaret, a 19:52 at Carrollton earlier this season shows that Shari knows how to run the hard courses just as well as she can run the fast courses. Can the Eagles' front runner peak at the right time and take a shot at a title, closing the 36 second gap between her and Margaret from "Round 1" in September?
Ava Coffey- Savannah Arts Academy- Ava has had a huge season for Savannah Arts Academy, opening with a 22:06 at the Frazier-Hite Invitational and consistently dropping more and more time until her 18:51 at Asics. Don't let her 21:14 from Carrollton her first time through confuse you, Ava is a stronger runner now than she was three months ago, and sometimes playing a hot hand at the right time can be the difference maker on a Championship stage. A 21:10 at the 7th Mile Farm Invitational seems like the outlier in a season otherwise marked by consistent improvement. Now it's just a matter of how Ava sticks the landing.
Others to watch:
Maya Davis- Athens Academy (19:24 at Coach Wood)
Georgia Meredith- Vidalia (19:57 at Southern Georgia XC Championship)
Elizabeth Shaylor- North Cobb Christian (19:58 at Cobb County Championships)
GIRLS TEAM BATTLE:
SAVANNAH ARTS ACADEMY- The Panthers are really good. With two in the projected top three, and a 3-7 that are all capable of breaking 23, there are very few weaknesses for opponents to pick at with this squad. Yes, they have a big spread from their 1-5, but that's going to happen any time you have a front runner breaking 18. Yes, they're missing any sort of a 'pack' that can run together, to support each other in the fray. But this team has proven that they don't need that. Savannah Arts Academy enters the State Meet with a sum that is not greater than its parts, but that is great because of its parts. Anybody who wants to beat them will have to pile points into one of their gaps, but even then, it will be hard for a significant number of competitors to wedge their way in between these ladies.
ATHENS ACADEMY vs FELLOWSHIP CHRISTIAN-
The battle for second and third will likely come down to these two teams and where 'the bubble' of competitors ends up in relation to them. They're two teams with drastically different strengths. In Athens Academy we see the power of a front runner, with Maya Davis having the potential to break up our projected top 3. Behind Maya, the Spartans spread out a bit, with a 2:43 gap in PRs from their 2nd runner to their 5th. Fellowship Christian Academy, conversely, relies on the strength of their pack. Though they may not have a front runner to compete with Davis, their 1/2 can work closely together in the low 21s. Then their 3/4 can work together in the mid-21s. Then they have three different girls sitting in the mid-high 22s that could break out to be their 5th, depending on the race. If Fellowship Christian can get their packs towards the front of the crowd, then Athens Academy will have to fire on all cylinders to hold them off. It should be fun to see how both teams leverage their unique team dynamics to climb the podium.
The last projected podium spot should go to the Landmark Christian Eagles. With Shari Brown up front, the team will have a good "low spot" to start their scoring with, followed by Turner Guerard as a strong number 2. Following those two, we see a bit of a gap develop before Landmark's 3/4/5 show up. And without that number 5 racing at Coach Wood, maybe there are some question marks surrounding Landmark's health? They seemed to have a full, healthy team lined up at their region meet, so hopefully whatever hiccup held them back at Coach Wood is done and behind them, but Landmark's road to success will depends on everybody lining up Saturday at full-or-close-to-full strength, and then their pack putting some distance between themselves and Athens Academy's/Fellowship's 5th runners.Did I miss somebody? Did I give too much credit to somebody? Everybody gets one more chance to prove the critics wrong on November 5th. The only guarantee is that we'll see some great racing. Best of luck to everybody toeing the line!