GHSA 1A Division 1 State Preview: Close Boys Race Upcoming

Haris Flynn at state last year

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1A Division I is one of the toughest classifications in Georgia. There are several small schools in this classification, and yet many of them can compete with schools that are thousands of students bigger. It's very impressive. This classification always seems to deliver exciting races and we've seen lots of good battles over the years. 

Boys Individual

This thing has the makings of a potential "instant classic" if you will. There are easily at least 4 guys who could make a claim as the favorite heading into this race. And then even after that are a few who wouldn't shock me if they pulled off the upset. The big four as I see them heading into this race are Andrew Rothwell, Ben Owens, Haris Flynn, and Caleb Darsey. All four of them have a PR among the top 6 in class 1A-1 and all four of them placed top 10 at state last year. There is very little to separate them which makes for a thrilling race setup. Rothwell has experience racing up front in several good races so far this year as he's finished in the top 5 on five separate occasions. But he hasn't won one yet, so he will need to hope he's learned from those experiences of being close but not quite there. He does have the fastest PR in the group so that could be very helpful. Ben Owens has been kind of lurking all season long, which is similar to what he did last year when he almost beat all of these guys at state. He's gotten better too as comparing him to last year, it's obvious he's faster than he was. Haris Flynn is the top returner from state last year and also has some really fast times from this past spring. He's only a sophomore so his ceiling is probably the highest, but this might just be too early for his shot at glory. And that least Caleb Darsey, who is the only one of the four to not break 16:00 yet this season, but has an impressive resume nonetheless. He also has experience winning races as he's won 7 of them so far this season. He also performed very well on this course already this season. Other individuals who could find themselves not only competing for the top 5 but potentially for the top spot if things go their way include Owen Tobias, Bo Mitchell, Krish Leveille, Riley Hugues,  Timothy Skipper, and Rowdie Epps.

GA MileSplit prediction:
1. Darsey
2. Flynn
3. Rothwell
4. Owens
5. Tobias

Boys Team

Last year's boys team race was one for the ages. It as exactly what you wanted coming into the meet and it absolutely delivered with three teams all fairly even and nobody truly knowing who the favorite was. In the end it was Armuchee who barely squeaked out the win over two Atlanta private schools. But this year it looks like things will be a little different. Whitefield Academy and Paideia appear to be somewhat clear of the other contenders. It's state and anything can happen, but I think it'll come down to the two of them for the title this year as Whitefield will be seeking their 2nd ever team title and Paideia will be looking to get their 1st. Whitefield got the better of Paideia at region and has looked to be the stronger team all season long. Rothwell, Hugues, and Mitchell provide a very strong top 3 that is hard to beat and then they've got Cavin Estep as a little bit a an insurance policy if any of those 3 struggle. They've also got the depth at 5 to handle anybody who tries to pack it up in front of them there. But if there's any team that has the make-up to knock off a team like Whitefield, it's Paideia. They not only have four potential #1's, they're 5th man is close enough to pack it up with them as they have the smallest 1-5 split of any contender. It's definitely possible that they regroup after region and find a way to run as a team to knock off Whitefield on Friday. It'll come down to Tobias, Leveille, and the Walton-Scott Brothers to have their best race of the season, but Carrollton is often called the great equalizer for a reason. After the top two there seems to be a very clear next two best teams, both from the Northwest corner of the state. Armuchee and Darlington appear to be set to take home the 3rd and 4th place trophies in some order. Darlington seems to have the slight edge, but they don't have any real front runners while Armuchee will have Owens contending for the win. Grant Cross will look to change that narrative for Darlington and place himself high enough that it can keep the front runner advantage Armuchee has to a minimum. But other than that, these two teams should see each other for much of the race and it will come down to who wants it more. If any of these four teams falter, look for somebody like Bleckley County to steal a podium spot. 

GA MileSplit Prediction
1. Whitefield
2. Paideia
3. Armuchee
4. Darlington

Girls Individual

Compared to the boys race, there is almost certainly not as much drama in this one. Ella Gibbs appears to be the clear favorite to defend her title from last year. Gibbs has had a mostly quiet season but when she's had good competition she's risen to the occasion, with two solid 4th place finishes at Ortho and Wingfoot as her only two losses to really fast runners. She's probably going to come away with the win unless something crazy happens. But give Marissa Kimple her credit too. She's been a phenomenal runner for years now and is often overlooked because of her teammate last year or her competition. She will most likely place 2nd in this one, but if she pulled off the win it wouldn't be the first time she surprised people. After these two things get a little trickier to figure out. Sophia Cook would be the obvious favorite for 3rd, but it appears she's coming back from injury and is not back to her normal self just yet. Don't count her out as she's a tremendous talent and cook definitely return to form, but odds are somebody else will take her place. And your guess is just as good as mine as far as who that will be. Ansley Moore and Ruby Gordon have the next fastest times and both won their region meet. So that would be a good guess. But I don't think they're far enough ahead of Lily Farrell, Alishia Cook, or Sydnie Henderson to completely count out any of those girls. The next 3 places will most likely come from this group of 6 girls, but the exact order they'll finish? I have no idea.

GA MileSplit Prediction:
1. Gibbs
2. Kimple
3. Gordon
4. Farrell
5. Sophia Cook

Girls Team

Last year we came into the meet with Bleckley County as the overwhelming favorite...and that's what we've got again this year. Bleckley has won 5 of the last 7 state titles and don't appear to be slowing down this year. Even if Bleckley were to sit their best two runners from the race, they'd still have a shot at the win. Gibbs, Farrell, and Ellen Arnold appear more than ready to lead them to the team title yet again this year. When you pair their stars up front with the fact that they also have the most depth of the field, it means they'll probably come away with a big win yet again this year. After Bleckley, things get a little more interesting, but there's still a little bit of a hierarchy to this race. Athens Christian will have Moore up front but also appears to have all of the pieces in place through the rest of the race to take the runner up in this thing. But it's still state, and all it takes is one bad race to change things dramatically. If that happens then look for Paideia or Armuchee to seize the opportunity. Armuchee appears to be a little stronger at the 4-5 spots and has the front runner with Kimple. But f Paideia can do enough damage at 2-3 then they'll have a shot in this thing. We will see how it all shakes out on Friday, but I think these will be the podium teams. It wouldn't be a complete shock to see Mount Vernon or Barrow Arts find their way on the podium, but the main four teams will be tough to beat.

Ga MileSplit Prediction:
1. Bleckley
2. Athens Christian
3. Armuchee
4. Paideia