Sensational Studs at State: Week 11 Unsung Heroes
The 2022 GHSA XC State Championships are in the books, and what a meet it was. We saw huge upsets, massive margins of victory, and sixth runner tiebreakers. What we didn't see, compared to previous seasons, were blazing fast times. That set the stage for the runners who thrive in sub-optimal conditions to take charge. The runners listed below may have run their best times of the season at a race like Coach Wood or Asics, but their best race came at Carrollton. I compared each athlete's place at the state meet with their rank in the classification based on their pre-state season best time. To qualify for this week's Unsung Heroes, runners had to finish in the top 20 at the state meet.
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!
The Golden Lions were edged out by the Marist War Eagles for the 6A state title, but Boyle did her best to help St. Pius win the state championship by having her best race of the season. At Carrollton's slowest course since 2015, Boyle actually ran 20 seconds faster than she did back at the quick AT&T Starr's Mill Panther Meet. She also finished as St. Pius's #3 runner with a "full" squad for the first time this season. In a classification that was packed with 12 sub-19:00 runners, Boyle managed to finish 12th despite owning a PR of 19:49. With only Hannah Schemmel graduating from the Golden Lions' state squad, St. Pius is well-positioned to remain a state contender next season with Boyle, Jessica Sheehan, and Zoe Garcia at the front.
Landmark Christian pulled a minor upset over Fellowship Christian for third at the 2A state meet. In fact, Landmark only scored 97 points, which would be good enough for second in most classifications. A major reason for that improvement was the race by senior Nina Story. Story had a tough season, missing nearly the entire season before coming back to finish 6th on her team at region 5-2A. However, it appears that Story was just easing back into racing at region because she finished third on her team and 14th overall at state. She finished at the front of a pack of competitors from other podium teams Athens Academy, Fellowship Christian, and Savannah Arts. Landmark's future looks bright with the rest of its top six returning, but Story finished her XC career on a very high note.
Sometimes, a runner has a race that just blows all expectations so far out of the water that they are sitting in the Sahara Desert. That was the case for Sarah Adams, who helped lead Atlanta Classical to their first XC championship as the #4 runner. Somehow, Adams ran a lifetime PR at state. She ran 13 seconds faster at Carrollton than she did at Asics! To make things even more surprising, Adams did not even race at region, and her previous race was a 28:44 at the APS City Championships back on October 6. I would not be surprised if Adams was the only runner in Georgia to run a season best at state this year while finishing in the top 20.
Girls Honorable Mentions
Much ado was made of Harrison's crop of freshmen this season, and for good reason. Two of the top three freshmen at the 7A state meet were Hoyas. However, that should not mean that what Bryce Brownlee did should go unnoticed. In an absolutely bananas 7A boys' state meet, Brownlee took full advantage of the chaos to snag 16th place, a spot that his 63rd-ranked PR would have indicated was nearly impossible. However, Brownlee had been trending upwards for most of the season. He ran 18:15 at Carrollton Orthopaedic, then 16:57 at the Cobb County Championships, and finally a 9th-place region 3-7A finish against Marietta and Hillgrove. Harrison had a topsy-turvy season with runners in and out, but ultimately Brownlee and senior teammate Sterling Sellier helped this otherwise young squad finish fifth at state.
Pope came up just short in their quest to win their team's third-ever XC state championship (and first since 2018), falling to North Atlanta by a mere eight points. A huge bright spot, though, was junior Charles Dodsworth's performance. Dodsworth finished in the top 20 despite barely ranking in the top 70 PRs for 6A boys. After finishing as Pope's #5 or #6 runner for almost the entire season, Dodsworth jumped up to the third slot for the Greyhounds and contributed to their 34-second 1-5 split, second-best in all of 6A. It may be a bit of a stretch, but solely taking state performances into account, Dodsworth is in the top 10 of returning runners for 6A. Not bad for a runner who entered the 2022 season with a PR of 18:35.
Simon Schabort won the 2A state championship by over a minute, which is one of the largest margins of victory I can remember seeing. Schabort exceeded expectations despite being the pre-race favorite. His performance was emblematic of the rest of his team. Model was ranked fourth or fifth in 2A all season long but secured a runner-up finish at the state meet as the whole team put in great performances, none more impressive than Eli Moon. Moon finished the state meet just 13 seconds off of his lifetime PR of 17:42, and he actually ran 19 seconds faster at state than at Wingfoot. Along the way, he was able to beat Nathan Hallar, the 1A Public runner-up from 2021, and Eyan Zupko, who owned a 16:07 PR. Moon's race of a lifetime was enough to propel the Devils past Vidalia, Fannin County, and Jeff Davis to reach second place, the school's best-ever finish.