1A-D1 Boys State Meet Recap
Well, GHSA sure knew what it was doing with the schedule this year. It was absolutely brilliant putting the 1A-d1 boys as the first race of the meet this year as it produced two absolutely thrilling finishes. Well done with the schedule getting the meet started with a bang!
This meet was billed as a tight team battle between Whitefield Academy and Paideia with the wild card of Armuchee seeming like they were on the outside looking in. Whitefield was the defending champions and Paideia was having their best season in school history. Surely it would come down to those two as Armuchee, the defending 1A-public state champions, probably couldn't hang with the two private schools from the Atlanta area. Well, that's why they run the race...
The race was out hot in what was probably the coldest conditions of any race all weekend. There was less carnage from this field than we saw at any point the rest of the weekend as conditions were close to perfect for racing since the sun hadn't beat the course down quite yet. Grant Cross from Darlington took the early lead with the main individual competitors content to let him control the pace early. Taylor Wade and Nathan Smith sat right on him content to let him control the race while Luke Churchwell sat back a little farther and was watching things develop. Teamwise at this point things were looking very close and it was anybody's race. Whitefield and Armuchee both had front runners, but Paideia had a pack of four not too far behind followed by the rest of the Armuchee and Whitefield scorers. Paideia's 5th was farther back but the team totals were all very close.
At Separation slope things appeared to slow down and the lead pack was huge. None of the main individual contenders looked like they were going to do any work on this first loop and appeared to just be out for a jog, keeping several runners in the race. But in the team battle an obvious leader started to emerge. Armuchee had their top runners just off the lead pack and the rest of their scorers had the lead on their competitors. This is probably the point in the race where any team had the biggest lead, but Whitefield was definitely still in this thing as Paideia was starting to fade. The battle for the final podium spot started to get interesting as well. Athens Christian had gotten out hard and appeared set to take it, but Bleckley County was moving up nicely through the field to challenge them.
The second loop is when we really started to get some answers. The big three we all expected to contend for the win had pulled away from all other challengers as Wade looked strong leading Smith and Churchwell. Both Wade and Chruchwell are known for their kicks, so at this point there was no telling which one was going to come out on top or if Nathan Smith was going to pull the upset over them both. Haris Flynn from Mount Vernon, a freshman running in his first ever state meet, was moving up nicely and was in the top 5 while Trace Harris was trying to give Armuchee a low stick to help their team pursuit and offset Wade. Whitefield had stronger or even runners at 1-2-3-4 at this point but Armuchee was much stronger at 5 and even had their 6th in front of Whitefield's 5. This was going to be a close finish. Paidiea still looked good overall, but appeared to be too far back at key positions to get the win at this point.
When they came out of the woods it was now down to Taylor Wade and Luke Churchwell for the individual title. Wade had the lead and a small gap as they crossed the road and the gap appeared to grow as they went up the final hill. In most situations, when you're that good of a runner, that's enough to get the win. But Luke Churchwell looked cool and collected coming up the final hill suggesting he had more in the tank. As they came down the final hill Churchwell finally launched his kick. Wade responded as they sprinted the final 100m and Churchwell threw it into his final gear to get the pass at the very end and win the race by 0.05 seconds, the closest margin of victory of the entire weekend. Smith held on for a very strong 3rd place finish while Flynn surprised in 4th and Harris and Ben Owens took 5-6 for a very important early lead for Armuchee. Krish Leveille ran a strong race to lead Paideia and Andrew Rothwell held on for 8th to give Whitefield their 2nd low stick. Timothy Skipper and Caleb Darsey rounded out the top ten.
In the team battle, Whitefield won at 3 out of 5 scoring positions, but the key difference maker was that Armuchee had a stronger 5th by a good margin as Mathew Campbell and Landon England ran the whole race together and sealed the deal for the small public school as they slayed the dragon of the top small private schools, winning by only 6 points. It was definitely an upset, but ultimately it was just a really exciting race for anybody who watched it as the two schools fought tooth and nail the whole way and the outcome was never secure until the very end. Paideia held on for a strong 3rd place finish while Athens Christian was able to hold off a late charge from Bleckley County for the final podium spot thanks to a tight pack finish of their 3-5 scorers.