The 3A boys race was a very exciting battle for the individual win
The 2023 GHSA State championships are unfortunately over. But since we just can't get enough of amazing XC races, let's take the week to recap what happened at the meet. Also, don't forget to check out the state meet hub for full coverage of the meet including results, photos, and videos. Or go back to the preview articles to see just how accurate (or inaccurate) the predictions were:
I don't think anybody was surprised by this team result, or at least not for the team who ended up winning it all. Oconee County has one of the best 3 headed monster in the entire state and that was on full display on Saturday. They didn't even have their best day as sophomore Aaron Brodrick, who led them to the team title last year, was unable to defend his individual title this year, in what appears to be some sort of injury. They very easily could have gone 1-2 in this race but settled for "only" going 1-3-6 in some impressive times from all 3. Nobody could match them, especially not when they put a fourth runner in the top ten and had senior Noah Scheuer seal the deal for them by placing 20th. Their 40 points were just too much for anybody to realistically challenge coming into this meet. But the battle for 2nd place was on from the gun as three teams all finished within 8 points of each other to round out the podium spots. In the battle of public vs. private schools, this year the public schools got the better of the private schools in class 3A. Lumpkin Co. ended up placing 2nd overall just narrowly beating out the two private schools in this race. Lumpkin was led by Wyatt Windham's strong 4th place showing and Ben Sherrill who also placed in the top 10. It helped having two runners place so high, but the real damage came when they had a stronger 3-4 than Wesleyan. And they did just enough at 5th man to hold on and take runner up. Hebron had a much tighter pack than Wesleyan and Lumpkin, and while that was enough to earn them a 3rd place finish behind Everett Griffin and Anderson Mathias, it wasn't enough to vault them over Lumpkin. Wesleyan was led by Wood Moore who had a strong runner up finish, but he the rest of the pack just couldn't quite do enough to catch Lumpkin and they would settle for 4th place.
Individually, this race a bunch of intrigue coming in. Before the season there was reason to believe that Aaron Brodrick could go four straight years and win four xc titles after winning last year as a freshman. But this is running and nothing is guaranteed. Injuries happen and it looks like Brodrick was sidelined some this year because of it. So the door was open for somebody else to win this year. Early on there was a clear group of four that established themselves as the contenders. Brodrick was joined by teammate Cooper Timberman as they looked to establish the early lead for Oconee. Also in the main pack were Wood Moore and Wyatt Windham who looked to break up the party for Oconee. The first one to make a move was Moore who had opened up a tiny gap by separation slope, but the rest of the lead pack was still right there and not panicked. Also Will Gipson had established himself a clear top 5 contender at this point and was very close behind the lead pack. Not much changed for the next mile other than the pack strung out a little bit. Moore continued to lead with the pack strung out behind him but it looked like Timberman was the only one who was able to give chase as Brodrick and Windham looked tired. Moore maintained the lead and even extended it towards the playground, but Timberman did not give up. And by Separation slope, it was going to come down to whoever had the most left for the final kick as Timberman was there right behind wood. In the end Timberman proved to be too much for Moore as he powered away from him down the final hill in one of the fastest times of the entire meet. Moore was 2nd followed by Brodrick and Windham as Gipson held on to 5th place.
Wesleyan's girls had such a tight pack all season long and were near the front of several races that it's no surprise they came into this race as the heavy favorites. But I didn't expect them to win it this way with the individual champion and two of the top three in a wide open individual race. They also had one of their biggest 1-5 splits of the entire season, so some girls really stepped on the big stage because the pack certainly did their job. It's just not the race I was expecting out of them, but I highly doubt they care as they still walk away with the 1st place trophy. It's not about how you get there, but just that in the end you have the fewest points. There's no extra credit for style, creativity, or consistency here, just one final set of results. In 2nd place Columbus was able to pull through over Oconee County and Mary Persons, which is pretty much how it was expected to go. Columbus was just too good up front and in the middle of the race for Oconee or Mary Persons to catch them. Oconee was able to take 3rd over Mary Persons though by virtue of having a tighter pack instead of the front runners that Mary Persons had. This is an example of teamwork for sure.
Individually this thing was wide open. So I guess it kind of makes sense what the final results say in the end, when you can step back and think about it. Early on there was a lead pack that included two of the favorites in Hayden Hand and Layla Melton. But it also included freshman Weezie Moore who was really finding her stride her late in the season. Alyna Gilbert sat back a little bit with most of the rest of the Wesleyan runners. By the halfway things had changed and it looked like it was starting to turn into a two person race with Moore and Gilbert. It wouldn't be until late in the 3rd mile that Moore would completely break away for the win, but when she did it must have been a powerful move because she was able to put 21 seconds on Gilbert in less than half a mile of racing. Gilbert would still hold on for 2nd place though in a strong time. Eva Murphy of Wesleyan was able to move up during the race and take 3rd place and almost caught Gilbert for 2nd. Rounding out the top 5 were Gabriella Hoover and Melton.