Recent Georgia XC History: Top Ten Girls Individual Runners

Lindsay Billings was one of the best cross country runners in Georgia history

Editor's note: This list and future lists in this series are the opinion of the author of this article, they are not meant to be a definitive final ranking, but more a way to take a look back at the best of the best in recent history.

Hello everyone! I hope you all are having a great summer. As we look forward to the upcoming cross country season, I thought it would be a fun exercise to rank the top 10 cross country athletes in Georgia from the past 10 years. Many runners have no idea who their forerunners have been, or who holds various records on the courses that many athletes still race today. I want to highlight some of Georgia's best runners in recent memory to give them the recognition they deserve. This list is obviously not definitive and is subjective, although I did have some consistent rules that I used to rank the athletes. If you disagree, that's totally fine! 

I decided to limit my rankings to athletes who graduated in the past 10 years. This includes runners from the class of 2014 up to the class of 2023. I had the best body of knowledge for this time period, and it covers runners who ran in entirely MileSplit-covered meets. Also, Carrollton switched to its current course layout in 2013, so it was easier to compare state performances to each other starting that year.

I focused mainly on cross country performances and not track and field performances, though I did factor in track PRs and accolades a little. I also wanted to reward athletes who had multiple great seasons over one standout season. So, without further ado, here are my rankings!

Honorable mention: Elizabeth Funderburk, Colquitt County (2018); Hannah Miniutti, Blessed Trinity (2021); Erin Leonard, Jones County (2019); Ellie Hall, Marietta (2019); Madelynn Cadeau, South Forsyth (2020)

10. McKenna Trapheagen, Woodland (2020)

The final spot on this list was very close, but Woodland HS of Cartersville athlete McKenna Trapheagen won out thanks to achieving great results and her consistency over two top-notch XC seasons. During Trapheagen's first two seasons, she was a top-5 runner on a very good Woodland squad, but she was still overshadowed by a few of her teammates leading up to her junior season. At that point, nobody would have expected Trapheagen to emerge as one of the best runners in GA in any classification, but that's exactly what happened. Trapheagen's slowest time from her junior season (19:07) was over 20 seconds better than her fastest time from her sophomore season (19:28). She won her first three races of the season by large margins, and she finished in the top 5 among GA runners at Wingfoot, Great American, Coach Wood, and Meet of Champions, lowering her PR to 17:59 in the process. Trapheagen won that year's 5A state meet by 40 seconds and led Woodland to a very exciting team victory over McIntosh. Her star continued to rise into her senior XC campaign. Huge margins of victory piled up early in the season, and she managed to win Alexander/Asics as well in a PR of 17:32.69. At the 5A state meet in 2019, Trapheagen really took off, winning the meet in a time of 18:27.67, the third-fastest time on the current Carrollton layout to date, with only a single runner able to stay within a minute of her.

9. Savannah Carnahan, South Forsyth (2016)

Savannah Carnahan marks the first of an incredible four athletes on this list from the class of 2016. During Carnahan's final three years in high school, she never finished worse than 6th in any race against GA competition. During her sophomore season in 2013, Carnahan improved her SB to 17:36 with a runner-up finish at Alexander/Asics, and she ultimately finished in sixth place at 6A state (GA's highest classification until 2017). That season also brought her track success with runner-up finishes in the 3200 and 1600 at 6A state. Junior year saw Carnahan finally break through and win most of her races. She took victories at NEGA XC Championships, McCallie Invitational (TN), Mountain Invite, and Alexander/Asics (17:24 SB). Carnahan finished in 19:12 at 6A state for 4th place. Carnahan returned for her senior season with victories at Bob Blastow, Westover, and Alexander/Asics, where she bested Lindsay Billings (more on her later) and set a PR of 17:08.72, the fastest 5K run since 2011 by a GA girl. Carnahan was beaten by Billings later at Coach Wood, region, and state, but still finished second at all three. Undaunted, Carnahan raced to eighth place at Foot Locker South in 17:34 to qualify for her first Foot Locker Nationals. The following spring, she also ran PRs of 10:27 and 4:50 in the 3200 and 1600, finishing second in both events at state. In college, Carnahan went on to win several conference championships at Furman. 

8. Emma Grace Hurley, Fellowship Christian (2016)

During the 2014 XC season, 1A Private housed the #8, #7, #6, and #4 athletes on this list, and Emma Grace Hurley still beat everyone. Hurley established herself as a state contender by her sophomore season in 2013, in which she finished in the top three of every race she ran before state, where she finished fifth in 19:42. She then set a SB of 18:14 at Foot Locker South to set herself up for her best XC season during the following fall in 2014. Hurley won Lambert River Run, Covered Bridge, Warpath, and Alexander/Asics to complete an undefeated season and ran away from the very strong field at 1A Private state with a time of 19:06. Hurley saved her best for last as she ran a PR of 17:15 at Foot Locker South, qualifying for the national race in California. In her first national race, Hurley ran very well for 24th place overall in 18:28. During Hurley's senior season of 2015, she was once again one of the top few runners in GA, finishing no worse than second in any regular-season race and losing to only two athletes all year. She finished third at state, but she bounced back at Foot Locker South, easily qualifying for another chance at Foot Locker Nationals. There, her experience came in handy as she finished in 15th, ahead of Carnahan and Billings. Hurley later ran a 10:22.58 2-mile during track season, which converts to the third-fastest 3200 in GA girls' history.

7. Anna Marian Block, Athens Academy (2018)

I'm not sure any runner in GA high school history has won more races than Anna Marian Block did over four XC seasons from 2014 to 2017. She also graduated high school with four 800 titles, three 1600 titles, and an individual XC title. A middle school champion at Athens Academy, Block continued her winning ways in high school, immediately winning the first seven meets she ran in her freshman season, including an 18:34 SB. Block won her first state titles (in the 1600 and 800) in track season. As a sophomore, she won six of seven meets leading up to the state meet, lowering her PR to 17:50 at the Clarke-Oconee Championships. This time, she finished the job at state with a very fast victory in 19:09. After another two state titles in track, Block was in better form than ever heading into her junior year. Now racing in some larger meets, Block ran very well at Double Dip (first) and Alexander/Asics (second). She ran 18:54 at state, which would have won if not for Nicole Fegans setting the 1A Private record. Still confident, Block tackled Foot Locker South for the first time and finished 10th in 17:52, qualifying for the national meet. A 29th-place finish there proved she could match up well against the best in the nation. Block's full-mile time of 4:46.67 that spring converts to the second-fastest 1600 ever run by a HS girl in GA. During her senior XC campaign, Block was more limited than in previous seasons, but she still won three of four pre-state races and finished fifth at the 1A Private state meet. 

6. Nicole Fegans, Landmark Christian (2017)

Fegans was a runner on Landmark Christian at the same time as Kathryn Foreman, the #2 runner on his list. At first, that made it difficult for Fegans to find victory, as she placed second five times as a freshman and ultimately finished fourth at the 1A Private state meet. During her sophomore year, Fegans greatly improved her best time to 18:19 and won a few races before a runner-up finish at 1A Private state. She then showed up in her junior season as Landmark's clear #1 and one of GA's fastest girls in all classifications. She won the Battle of Atlanta, Starr's Mill Panther, and Carrollton Orthopedic, and she set a SB at Foot Locker South in 18:00. However, it was Fegans's senior season in 2016 that really launched her on this list. Around midseason, she went turbo mode and started dominating all competition. Fegans won Alexander/Asics, Last Chance, region, and finally, 1A Private state in an amazing time of 18:36.20, the eighth-fastest time ever at Carrollton. Then, Fegans won the Meet of Champions in 17:39.73, the second-fastest time ever run on the Starr's Mill course. After that five-race winning streak, Fegans entered Foot Locker South on a tear and raced to a fourth-place finish in a PR of 17:26, just five seconds back of the winner. At Foot Locker Nationals, Fegans raced against the fastest girls in the nation in San Diego. Against the odds, she finished 7th with a fantastic time of 17:48, the second-highest finish of all time for a Georgia girl at the meet. With that late-season surge, Fegans had found an extra gear that she used in track season to dominate the field in the 1600 (4:54) and 3200 (10:30) at 1A Private state. 

5. Serena Tripodi, Lovett (2017)

In our fifth slot we have one of Georgia's most decorated XC and track runners ever, Serena Tripodi. She immediately made a huge impact for a talented Lovett team, finishing the season as the 2A state runner-up in 19:47.38 and later going on to finish 21st at the XC National Junior Olympics. She then swiftly won her first state title, a 1600 crown in the spring of her freshman season. In her sophomore season of 2014, Lovett and Tripodi began their domination of 2A. That season, Tripodi won the Kosh Klassic, Carrollton Orthopedic (6A race), and the Westover Invitational. She also won the 2A state meet in 19:16 and set a SB of 17:57 at the NXN Southeast Regional. Tripodi also had perhaps her best track season that year with 1600 and 3200 state titles and PRs of 4:59 and 10:51, respectively. Tripodi maintained her excellent run of form as a junior, breaking 19:00 in six different races and finishing in the top four in all nine regular-season meets. She won another 2A state title and finished even better with a 17:37 at NXN Southeast Regional, finishing sixth and qualifying for NXN, where she finished 73rd. Lovett moved up to 3A in Tripodi's senior season, which was arguably her best yet. Tripodi won Kosh, Westover, and Coach Wood, and then at state she set a Carrollton course record in 18:17.85, which still stands today. She then collected another top-10 finish at NXN Southeast. Tripodi graduated with three individual XC titles and six individual track titles, as well as leading Lovett to two XC and two track team championships as well.

4. Kathryn Foreman, Landmark Christian (2016)

Kathryn Foreman did not have the most traditional trajectory of an elite XC runner. Most runners continue steadily improving until their senior year. Foreman reached the XC mountaintop by her sophomore season. She started as a middle school XC and track champion, and all she knew was winning during her first two high school seasons. She won Alexander/Asics and the first Starr's Mill Panther Invitational as a freshman in 2012. She also captured the 1A Private state crown that season (held in Macon) by a wide margin. Foreman showed that her speed could match up against high-caliber opposition by becoming the top GA finisher at Foot Locker South, finishing in 17:51. Foreman's sophomore follow-up was a season that would be hard to top. She went completely undefeated over 12 races against GA competition, with none of the first 10 races particularly close. Meets she won included Bob Blastow, Starr's Mill Panther, Carrollton Orthopedic, Battle of Atlanta, and Alexander/Asics. Foreman received a stiff test at state from Tayler Tuttle and Helen Audrey Williams, but she raced to the victory in 18:42.18. Her amazing season continued with an 8th-place finish at Foot Locker South in 17:19, which qualified her for nationals. Foreman finished 32nd at the FL National meet to cap an unmatched sophomore season. She returned for her junior year to stretch her unbeaten streak against GA competition to 19 races after winning her first three meets, before finally suffering a defeat against Lindsay Billings at Carrollton Orthopedic. Foreman continued running well for the rest of the season, but she "only" managed fourth at state and 65th at Foot Locker South. Foreman's teammate Nicole Fegans overtook her by Foreman's senior season, but she still finished sixth or better in all races except Alexander/Asics. Foot Locker South was a good send-off for Foreman as she finished 29th with a SB of 18:21. 

3. Makena Gates, Creekview (2021)

Makena Gates of Creekview is the most recent runner on this list, and she earns that distinction for her incredible consistency across four seasons. She was a middle school track and XC champion and continued winning in high school, immediately stamping herself as one of GA's best runners. In her freshman season of 2017, she won the 6A state meet by 30 seconds and was GA's top finisher at Foot Locker South, finishing 13th in 17:46. As a sophomore, Gates lost to only three GA runners all season long, won another 6A state title in 18:48, and once again was the top GA finisher at Foot Locker South, this time finishing just off the national qualifiers at 11th place in 17:36. Gates didn't let that near miss get to her in her junior season, again winning several major meets and losing to only a single GA athlete in the regular season. She barely missed out on three consecutive state championships after a duel with Kayla Gholar in the 6A meet. For a third straight season, Gates was GA's top finisher at Foot Locker South, this time in 14th. Gates returned as good as ever as a senior, winning six of seven races leading up to state and only losing to just two GA runners all year. She won a third 6A XC title in her fastest Carrollton time yet, this time in 18:43, and she won the Meet of Champions for the first time in her final XC race. Gates ended her XC career with perhaps the most sub-19:00 races (31) of any GA XC runner, and certainly the best four-year average at state with an 18:50.0 Carrollton average across four seasons.

2. Morgan Ilse, Marist (2015)

Marist has had one of the top XC teams in the state every year for the past 10 years. That means they've had more than their fair share of top runners in that span. Morgan Ilse was the best of that bunch. As a freshman in 2011, she dominated JV races and finished 4th at state. Ilse transitioned from state contender to state champion as a sophomore, when she dominated the 4A state meet by over 30 seconds. She also took the 1600 and 3200 victories at the 4A track state meet. As a junior, Ilse improved further, winning Bob Blastow, Double Dip, Warpath, and Coach Wood by large margins. On the current Carrollton layout, Ilse ran 18:53, which was the second-fastest time in the state that year. She also raced to a SB of 17:56 at Foot Locker South. In Ilse's final XC season in 2014, she did not win as many races, but that's because of the incredibly competitive racing schedule she faced. After winning Double Dip, she finished well at two out-of-state races and took second to Lindsay Billings at Coach Wood. Ilse matched her Coach Wood time at state, taking down the field with an 18:24.90, a Carrollton course record at the time. She wasn't finished, either, as she finished third in 17:21.70 at NXN Southeast Regional. She ended her HS XC career at NXN, where she placed 62nd, before winning two more individual track titles in the spring. It's also worth noting that Marist won the team XC title all four years she ran, and their margin of victory was over 75 points three times. 

1. Lindsay Billings, Northview (2016)

In the Avengers movies, Thanos utters the line "I am inevitable" as none of the heroes are able to stand against him. Well, Lindsay Billings was inevitable during her junior and senior XC seasons. Only two Georgia girls were able to defeat her in that span, and Billings attained her revenge on both. Billings did not dominate as a freshman, but she improved quickly towards the end of the season, finishing sixth at the 5A state meet in 2012. The following season, she began winning races, eventually winning the state championship on the current Carrollton layout in 19:12. In track season, she won the 3200 at 5A state in 10:49, a sign of things to come in the fall. Billings lost only once in her junior XC season, to Emma Grace Hurley at Covered Bridge. She proceeded to win Carrollton Orthopedic, the Disney XC Classic in Florida, Fulton County, and Coach Wood, beating Morgan Ilse by 24 seconds. Billings was not bothered by Northview's move to 6A as she won the state meet by nearly 30 seconds with an 18:29. She just missed out on a Foot Locker Nationals berth by one second with an 11th-place finish in 17:24. Billings then won the 1600 and 3200 races at state in 4:50 and 10:27. During her senior season, in 2015, Billings was not fazed about competing against the best class of GHSA girls ever. She won her first five races of the season, which included besting Emma Grace Hurley at Double Dip and (barely) at the first Wingfoot Classic. Savannah Carnahan managed to beat Billings at Alexander/Asics, but as mentioned above, Billings got back on top at Coach Wood, region, and state. Only Carnahan was able to stay within a minute of Billings at the muddy 2015 6A state meet. Billings continued her run of excellence at Foot Locker South, finishing fourth in 17:15. She then finished 19th at Foot Locker Nationals to cap an excellent season and outstanding XC career. Billings the won the 3200 in 10:21.74 at 6A state in her senior track season, which remains the fifth-fastest 3200 ever run by a GA girl.