The boys race at last year's meet of champions race
GA HS Meet of Champions Preview
by Michael Johnson
The Georgia XC Meet of Champions annually brings together the best teams across all classifications to compete against each other after the State Meet. This year's Meet of Champions looks to be a strong one. Some of the top teams may opt to run at NXR or Running Lane, or maybe get some rest before track, but several top teams have already committed to running in the meet. This race is looking like a fun race to cap off the season. Most of this preview will focus on runners and teams who are trending upwards in the postseason, but know that there are several more who could make it a competition no matter how they did at State.
One of the most likely candidates for the overall individual title must be Walton's Joseph Minecci. His 7A State victory puts him as the favorite for this race. Based on State Meet results, there are only a few entered who are within striking distance. Minecci has demonstrated his talents at the highest classification, now it seems he wants to leave no doubt facing the others. The two closest to Minecci are Denmark's Ben Sydell and Ethan Bridge. Sydell has the number three time on entries, but Bridge edged him out by a fraction at State. These two were in the top 10 in the State Meet merge, and should be looking for a win as well as a team victory.
Adam Lippe from Westminster of Augusta will be looking to challenge for the win. The GIAA State Champion has beaten many of the best who are signed up. It will be another opportunity for him to show everyone that he can compete amongst the best in the State. Wesleyan's Wood Moore ran under 16:00 for the 8th time this weekend, and took a narrow 2nd in a fun 3A race. Moore has had an impressively consistent year and a very strong finish. This consistency could pay off if some of the other runners falter. Diego Fernandes of West Forsyth should be considered in the mix. Fernandes found the podium in 7A. And has also been steadily peaking here at the end of the season. If he puts it all together on the course this weekend he could surprise several of the runners listed above.
There are plenty of runners who did not have their best meet at State this weekend who are still major threats to win. Carrollton's Noah Martinson took 3rd overall last year in this meet and should be considered a solid contender. Evan Grundmeyer leads a surging Marietta boys squad. Noah Sybert and his Richmond Hill counterpart Memphis Rich are always a factor in big races. Milton's Zach Patell will have his team behind him again, and could push into contention. Wyatt Windham, Caleb Darsey, Kaleb Tesfaye, and Ben Davis will also look to finish their season strong.
The boys team title looks like it could be a fun battle between several very talented teams this year. As of now, many of the State Champions are not entered or are running without their front runners. There are several teams that should match up well against each other. It will be a matter of who has a great day on the course.
Denmark boys will be the favorites for the team title. The Danes are number two in the results merge, and only fell to 7A counterpart Harrison. On paper it should be their race with two competitive front runners in Ethan Bridge and Ben Sydell who both ran below 16:00 at State, and a close 1-5 finish.
The Marietta boys had an outstanding state meet to take 3rd in 7A and if their sudden rise indicates their trajectory, expect them to come out to compete in this race and attempt a Marietta sweep. The boys have been relatively quiet this year, and raced very little in October, but their solid performance at State should put them clearly in the picture this weekend.
Jefferson will look to get into the top tier of finishers and could very well compete for the title if they run exceptionally well. The 5A runner up had a compact State Meet with only a 40 second split, and have the potential to take this tight pack into a top finish at the meet. Carrollton should be considered major contenders, even after finishing 6th in 7A this weekend. Carrollton has the talent to beat anyone in the state when they are running at their best.
Westminster would be a sure thing, but are running without their killer 1-2-3 combo, maybe they can sneak into a top spot. Milton, West Forsyth, St. Pius, Starr's Mill, Richmond Hill, Parkview, and Whitfield Academy will all look to keep up with the teams above. Don't be surprised if we also see Clarkston and Greenbrier among the top teams after strong State performances. Milton missed out on State after finishing 5th in the region of death this year, and will be looking for a proving ground. Many of these other teams had good, but not standout time-based results at the State Meet. They do stack up well when you look at all-classifications when running their best. Each of these teams on their best day are certainly dangerous and were consistently in the mix at large invitationals.
Mary Nesmith of Marietta is the clear favorite. While she hasn't been unbeatable this season, she showed everyone what she is capable of at Carrollton this weekend. She should be the favorite to build upon her impressive resume this year. The likely next best candidate for the win also comes from Marietta in Maddie Jones. Jones impressively ran her second best time of the season at State (second to ASICS). Jones may want to steal Nesmith's thunder by challenging herself and her teammate this weekend.
There will be plenty of others from 7A looking to surprise the Marietta favorites and build upon their impressive finishes at State. Morgan Grace Sheffield of Denmark has gone toe to toe with Nesmith on several occasions, most notably at ASICS. West Forsythy's Tess Krogman had an outstanding PR this weekend and also looks to build upon her podium finish and first race sub-19:00.
Some of the best candidates may be from 5A. Sanam Rangaraj of Cambridge ran exceptionally well and won 5A convincingly with an 18:36, and ran a very impressive race. Looking at her improvement just this year alone makes her dangerous. She seems to be finally realizing what she may be capable of. Sophie D'Elena led her team to a state title and grabbed a new PR. The Decatur front runner has real speed, and is peaking at the right time to challenge up front. Effie Ward of Harris Co. continues to show her strength and could look to make a charge.
From 6A, Pope's Josie Hutchinson will be in contention for a strong finish at the race. Hutchinson ran in the 18:50s in the relative heat. Catherine Townsend of North Atlanta did not run her strongest meet at State, but can definitely be a competitor for a top spot when she is running well.
There are plenty of other girls who have the abilities to challenge. Brookstone's Elizabeth Cowley has shown she can compete with the top girls from GHSA. Don't rule out outside contenders like Audrey Hotard, Clodagh O'Bryant, Noelle Sullivan, Jessica Sheehan, and Julia Betton from a podium finish.
This year's girls race looks to be Marietta vs the rest of the state of Georgia. The Marietta girls had an exceptional State Meet performance last weekend, and will be looking to seal their season in Georgia with a clean win at the Meet of Champions. The Marietta girls finished with 32 points and an 18:53 team average at State, and are the clear favorites this weekend. If these girls are healthy and do select to run this weekend, they should be able to leave no doubt about their status as the top girls team in the State and one of the best in the Southeast region.
The next tier of teams that will be making a push should be Decatur and Walton. Decatur held off both McIntosh and Northview to win the 5A championship. The Decatur girls have shown they are highly capable during the championship season, and have raced their strongest times when it mattered most. D'Elena and her teammates Margaret Welp and Anna Blaich have had an exceptional finish to the season.
Walton girls will look to get into the mix of this meet as they continue to build upon strong performances from State. The Walton girls ran a tight pack this weekend and have been very consistent all season in big races, but may not quite get there without a clear top 10 threat in the race. If their whole team runs well they can definitely make a big splash in the meet.
McIntosh, Northview, and Richmond Hill will all look to round out the top set of teams at this meet. McIntosh took runner up to Decatur and Northview followed in 3rd place in a relatively close 5A meet. Both will want another shot against their 5A rivals in this race. Richmond Hill can certainly compete when everyone is running well. These are all great teams, and could take someone down if the other teams lack the push they did at State. The girls from Milton, Harris County, and Starr's Mill will also be looking to improve upon their State Meet results from this weekend, while GIAA State Champion Brookstone will look to mix it up with their GHSA counterparts.