1A-D1 Girls State Meet Recap
You have to hand it to Ella Gibbs. She started high school as probably the most hyped up middle school runner in state history. As she should have after beating the state's best runners in a post season two mile last fall and after breaking every distance record on the books while in middle school. But what has truly amazed me about her is that she is handling all of the hype with nothing but poise and grace. She doesn't appear to run for her own ego or because she needs to win. She clearly just wants to run her hardest to be the best she can be, regardless of any outside pressures the state puts on her. For that alone, she is worthy of praise.
And now let's set the stage for what was possibly the biggest individual battle on the books this weekend (no disrespect to 6A or 7A) on the girls side. We had Shelby Green and Marissa Kimple of Armuchee who had both been killing it this fall. They turned heads (if they hadn't already) when they went 1-2 at the Coach Wood invitational, breaking 18:00 in the process. They appeared to be the favorites to battle it out, but Gibbs was the wild card. She was the super star middle school runner who had dealt with a couple of injuries and hadn't run in as many high profile races. There were alot of question marks surrounding what she could do against two of the best runners in the state. In the team battle things didn't appear that close as Bleckley not only had Gibbs and teammate Tristen Crosby as front runners, they had the talent at 3-4-5 that would be hard for anybody to match.
The race immediately went the way it was expected to go with the big 3 all out together early on. And in all the hype of those three, it's easy to forget that Sophia Cook is an incredibly strong runner in her own right. She decided to go for broke and go with the big three regardless of what the pundits said. Behind them you had Megan Walter of Paideia leading the chase pack which included Crosby, Sydnie Henderson, and Kennedy Reynolds. As expected, Bleckley had the lead at this point, but Paideia was giving them a solid run early on and Oglethorpe County had a strong pack that looked ready to fight for a podium spot as well.
By the halfway almost nothing had changed as the big 3 separated from Cook and the chase pack was strung out. But in the 3rd mile is when things started to get interesting. Gibbs made her bid right after the two mile mark and got a small gap on Kimple and Green. The Armuchee teammates were working together to keep her close though and it was definitely not over yet. The entire 3rd mile was a question of whether Gibbs would have enough left in the tank to hold on for the win in her first trip to the Carrollton hills as a high schooler. Kimple and Green gave their best efforts and kept it close, but it just wasn't enough as Gibbs ran the 2nd fastest time of the weekend and dipped under 19 on what was the slowest Carrollton course we've ever seen. Kimple took 2nd and Green took 3rd as both ladies were some of the fastest performers all weekend. Cook held on for 4th with Henderson and Crosby in 5th and 6th. Alishia Cook passed Walter for 7th place and Reynolds held on for 9th while Freshman Colbie Ramsey took the final podium spot.
The team battle was as it was expected to be up front when nobody could match Bleckley County for the win. The race for 2nd was a close one with Paideia finishing just 3 points ahead of upstart Oglethorpe County for state runner up. Paideia's 2nd and 3rd runners ended up being the difference makers for them on this day as the two teams matched up very well overall. Whitefield Academy rounded out the podium teams putting together a complete effort from top to bottom despite not having anybody in the top 10 Armuchee couldn't quite match them even with their strong front runners doing their part.