7A Boys Recap: Marietta and Memphis Rich Surprise With Wins

Video of the 7A Boys Race

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2022 7A Boys State Meet Recap

I have been a coach in Georgia for 13 years now and a 7A coach for 9, and when I tell you that this was the craziest, most 'victim of circumstance' State Meet I've ever experienced, I mean it.  It was just under 70 degrees at the start of the boys' race and over 70 by the time the girls' race went off.  The grass was soft, and you could just tell that times would be out the window on this day.  Then, we had the restart in the boys' race.  The leaders must have been nearly 400m into the race before they knew for sure the race was recalled.  I saw multiple athletes racing with one shoe, one racing with no shoes (he was wearing orange, too...), multiple athletes hacking up a lung while they raced, multiple teams' coaches reporting illnesses ranging from COVID to the flu to a cold on steroids - one team with FIVE athletes missing large gaps of school in the week leading to the race.  "Carnage" is one word to describe this meet.

And that's where, despite all the noise and all the pressure and all the outside influencers that affect high schoolers on the daily, one team as of late always just seems to get it done.  Marietta.  Marietta comes in and steals a victory on the boys' side and establishes themselves as the alpha dog on not just the girls' side in 7A but in all of Georgia.  Should we be surprised?  I mean, seriously.  Are we surprised?  Did we really know that when Maximus Decimus Meridius screamed "Are you not entertained???" in Gladiator that he was actually referencing Marietta Cross Country and not himself?  Just an absolutely masterful performance on both sides.  Let's see how it all went down:

Speaking of how things went down, a runner went down about 50 meters into the race, and everyone was sort of standing around waiting.  "Will they call this back?  Did that kid go down by contact?  He's fixing his shoe... did he just get stepped on but go down on his own?"  This was the conversation as coaches hesitated to begin sprinting to their respective locations on the course.  And then, about 35 or so seconds into the race, it sounded like that heart wrenching final scene in The Last Samurai where the heavy artillery of the Imperial Army (courtesy of the Gatling Gun) mows down the remaining samurai.  The leaders did not hear the callback initially and kept racing.  It took several minutes to get everyone back to the line.  Coaches (myself included) ran down the hill to get to the starting area and tried to make contact with the athletes to calm them down.  Just a crazy scene. 

Minecci Leaving Early. All photos by Alex Brust

The next start, thankfully, was clean, and we were off to the races.  As the athletes passed the softball fields, the bus lanes, and the "wall", it was a surprisingly quick Joseph Minecci doing his best Steven McCartney impression with a large lead on the field.  The likes of Memphis Rich, Jared Fortenberry, Noah Martinson, Will Jennings among others were in tow.  It was a huge clump of 25+ guys all trying to establish themselves as top 10 threats from the beginning.  From a team perspective, it appeared Carrollton was trying to take this thing early with Lambert and Marietta lurking closely behind.  Heading up separation slope the first time, it was Memphis Rich with the somewhat surprising lead over Fortenberry, Minecci, and Cory Chambers of Milton.  The chase pack was quickly beginning to dissolve, likely thanks to the heat, but sightings of Luke Kalarickal, Mark Petrucci, Kushan Patel, and Ben Sydell could be seen trying to maintain pace.  The team picture still wasn't too clear yet as it appeared that Carrollton may have still had an edge but were losing ground to Lambert and, again, not unsurprisingly, Marietta. 

Rich with the win

Fortenberry Runner up

By the time the kids hit the "wall" the 2nd time, it was clear:  This was now Marietta's race as they ran one of the strongest 3rd miles I can remember to get this done.  Individually, it was now a duel between Fortenberry and Rich.  Kalarickal was trying to put the hurt on Chambers to break away and get 3rd while Jennings, Sterling Sellier of Harrison, Diego Fernandes of West Forsyth, Sydell, and Patel were all trying to gap the field to remain in the top 10.  When everything was settled, it was a dominant win by Memphis Rich, pulling off the upset over Fortenberry.  Will Jennings of Carrollton was next, followed by Cory Chambers of Milton, Diego Fernandes of West Forsyth, Mark Petrucci of Collins Hill (who admittedly was likely the most 'stealth' athlete in the top 10.  He seemed to always just 'be there' without being noticed), Jackson Hogsed of Lambert who had a tremendous 2nd half, Ben Sydell of Denmark, Luke Kalarickal of Mill Creek, and Joseph Minecci, withstanding the near-suicidal start to hang on for the final top 10 spot in one of the gutsiest races I've ever seen.  It goes against conventional wisdom, but sometimes it's fun to see a kid take a swing and stick it, and Minecci did.  From a team standpoint, it was all Marietta by now as Jack Baltz (18th), Hines Doyle (20th), Evan Grundmeyer (25th), and Jack Boland (27th) all came roaring in to pull off the upset over Carrollton (2nd), Lambert (3rd), and West Forsyth (4th).  What a fun race to watch.

Jennings with a strong showing

Chambers down the final hill

Fernandes with Petrucci and Hogsed close behind

Thankful for our Cross Country family - both locally at my school and across the entire State.  I had some great conversations with a variety of coaches as the day progressed.  May your athletes get healthy, and may those who didn't have the days they wanted still be able to put it all in perspective.