2 Big Girls Team Upsets, Marist and St.Pius X Status Quo and Brickell Stones the Field in 6A

                                   2012 Carrollton GHSA Cross Country State Championship Briefs


Michael Thurston leads a Marist onslaught in 4A. Image by Pinion Photography


Total Dominace...Marist made it look ez like usual. Michael Thurston won the individual title in 16:13 and Daniel Navarro followed him in for 2nd at 16:16 and Jack Leahy squirted in for 5th at 16:51  Daniel Broadhead of Wayne County took it out early and led the 1st loop, but the Marist duo took him somewhere between the 1st long gradual hill and the 2 mile mark, though Broadhead had a fine race placing 3rd in 16:32. Hakeem Mustafaa of Shaw moved into 4th at the beginning of loop 2 and held on for 4th overall running with the big boys clocking a 16:43. Alexander placed 2nd in the team race without having a runner in the top 10 besting Wayne County by 2 points. Lagrange had a great race taking the final podium spot led by Sam Bowie in 7th and Andrew Coggins in 8th. Brian Cato of Eagle's Landing represented with a 6th place effort of 17:00

Coach Heintze of Marist talks about the Boys race and the new Carrollton layout in general, "Our boys ran very strong up front.  I think our 1-3 is as good as anyone's of recent memory in GA.  We ran very smart knowing that that 2nd mile in particular would be very difficult.  Daniel and Michael worked together as planned and raced the last 1-1.5m.  Jack Leahey is unheralded as well.  He was a 9:55 3200m runner last spring and now is 5th in the state.  I have to commend the top folks from AAAA for racing very strong.  It was an underestimated classification all season.   I predicted that our 4-5 would run about what they did but we did not expect so many to race as well as they did.  Lagrange certainly suprised folks and ran very strong.  I know if merged results that folks will be talking about the weather again, but I think that nearly every other race had a very strong team competition.  Even in 3A St. Pius was coming off a loss to Woodward and that leads to extra motivation.  I think that more than covers the temperature variations considering that 65 degrees really isn't that bad and 42 really isn't that great! "

The course was brutal.  I used a conversion factor of .975 for the boys and .972 for the girls to equate to last years meet.  The new hill was very challenging.  I liked that it added some additional strategy and skill to racing the state meet, but it was very tough to get folks pumped about running some of the slowest times of the year.  I am more disappointed about losing the ability to compare year to year.  I am want to know we stood against the 2004 or 2008 teams and it is very difficult to so.  We have had 3-4 minor changes and now one major change in just the last 5-8 years.  It destroys tradition and I feel weakens the sport in Georgia.  There is nothing better than seeing kids aiming for 15 year old course records or similar things."

Multi-talented athlete Morgan Ilse of Marist defends her State title. Image by Pinion Photography

AAAA Girls

Continued Dominance..Marist again swept the Class as Morgan Ilse built a steady 100 meter lead and cruised to the Individual title. Teamate Kate Northrop placed 5th and 3 Lady War Eagles consumed the 12-14 spots to cement the victory. Heritage-Catoosa ran very strong placing 2nd only 20 points behind by taking 3 of the top 11 places led by Sarah Buckler's 4th place finish. Alexander went home with more hardware as they placed 3rd led by Brittany Truitt's 8th place finish and Chestatee held off Pickens County to place 4th. Alyssa Weaver of Pickens County captured the individual runnerup spot with a nice run in 19:50 Anna Leigh Nix (formerly of Veterans) and now with Mary Persons placed 3rd overall in 20:04 Sarah Bearden brought home more bounty for the Grangers placing 6th in 20:13 and 2010 AAA champ Ericka Taylor of Westover was 7th overall.

Coach Eric Heintze of Marist talks about the Girls race, "I have to first hand things to Heritage-Catoosa.  No one seemed to pay attention to them but they show up at state every year.  I had remembered losing to them big time in 2006 when their coach was at LFO, so we were prepared for a big push from them, but they showed up ready to race and did fantastic. 

Our girls ran really well but we didn't realize how well until other results started to come in.  I know we were blessed with good weather, but other teams were also blessed with very deep and competitive races from top to bottom.  Morgan Ilse ran well but certainly had more in the tank.  Kate Northrop probably had the best race of the day for us.  She battled injuries for 18 months from her sophomore track season up until this summer.  She is a superb competitor and showed up big time.  We are also blessed with a deep squad and the power of the pack helped us a lot.  With a tight 3-7 any one could have a good day and contribute and that is what Marlain Schwab did for us.  I think the course obviously favored strength runners and North Georgia teams that are used to racing hilly courses.  I have no data to back that up, but that is my gut feeling.

Chris Akins of Model was solid winning the 2A Individual title.  Image by Bruce Taylor ga.milesplit

AA Boys

The big story in the AA boys race was Chris Akins of Model getting some payback on Orlando Burgos of Heard County for the individual title. The duo ran aside each other the 1st loop, but Akins steadily pulled away winning by a comfortable margin. In fact, Damien Porter of Chatooga overtook Burgos to place 2nd overall. Westminster (with Jordan Flowers back from mono..) ran well enough to seal a 5th straight title. Flowers led the Cats' placing 4th overall and had 2 other runners make the All-State team in Graham Huff and Harry O'Connor. Wesleyan ran a very gutsy race and left it all on the turf placing 2nd 8 points behind. The Wolves had 3 runners in the top 10 led by Matt Schanen's 6th place finish. It was wide open for the final 2 Podium spots and the Boys from Bleckley County brought it when it mattered taking 3rd place by 13 points over Lovett who scraped by Model for 4th by 3 points...

Coach Joe Tribble talks about his Boys squad, "I am very proud of these seven guys, as we started the season with only Jordan returning.  Austin Dhillon and Adam Willis had run in Region last year but both had been displaced by other Westminster runners so that was their experience post-season. Bringing six guys up is a bit of a challenge, but when Jordan was diagnosed with mono (not long after a solid race at Wendy’s), and Adam Willis, the only senior got sick, we were vulnerable and hurting.  Newcomer Jack Bondurant (football last year) had been #3 for us, but then he got sick.  Thankfully with a good bit of rest and lots of sleep, hydration, and good food all three came back—not quite 100% but clearly enough to race effectively.  

In the race itself we faced a tough team that we had raced throughout the season—they had not beaten us but had come close and were steadily improving.  I reminded the guys leading up to State that even though we had won every race against them they were not going to just lie down—I was convinced in the minds of Wesleyan’s runners they thought they could still beat us as every time we had a chance to slam the door we could not do so.  Wesleyan is well coached (Chad does a superb job always as you know—and Chris who was justly praised by Chad yesterday ran at Westminster with Geoffrey on the same team—so it is always exciting to go up against guys you used to coach when they were here—Chris not Chad). We wanted to move as many ahead of Wesleyan’s top runners as possible as the whole thing seemed to be shaping up into somewhat of an “us against them deal”—so we knew every point was crucial.  Graham Huff who was # 2 for us really came through and was steady all season, as was Harry O’Connor and Charlie McKnight.  They all came through.  Perhaps Jordan, still quite sick and very weak (though he did train some the week of State), ran the most remarkable race of our seven.  To finish top 5 and be that sick, well, as a Missionary friend of mine in France who follows the team put it “I did not think they made them like that anymore!” 

Like everyone else yesterday, I wish we could have run faster times, but what has often been said about being able to rise to the challenge of the moment, doing what you have to do, well, I believe they did that—and the result was truly Victory.  Again, we are thankful for it.  They had to race man to man and were able to do just that.  All credit to a “magnificent seven” in my book.  They never gave up all season—even when the chips were way down.   

As for “streaks,” yes we have thankfully won since 2007—so this is our “6th in a row.”  I think this actually takes away from the Victory of a certain year; as I explained above this was a unique situation we had to deal with it—and in a way every season is just like that.  So we do not talk at all about streaks.  We thank God for every Victory and a fine past tradition, but each year is about the guys we have.  I hope I make myself clear on this."

Emma Garrison repeats what Chris Jones of Union Co. did several yearsago and did I hear correctly, they have no Track program?? get a grip AD and start one!  Image by Pinion Photograpghy

AA Girls

This was the Biggest Upset of the day in the Official's area, as Wesleyan's gals were just 'sick' this morning, not being intimidated a bit by Westminster and they were just magnificent, taking advantage of a golden opportunity when Westminster ace Sahara Fletcher dropped out of the race ill before the end of loop 1. While this was brewing Union County came down out of the mountains with Emma Garrison building an insurmountable lead winning the individual title by :25 Fans in the know began to notice a flurry of white and green clad unis coming down the finishing hill and a buzz filled the air down the stretch. 11 of the next 12 runners crossed from Wesleyan and Westminster..But the Lady Wolves dropped their top runners in front of Westminster's in twos and the sum was a 10 point win. Caroline Reed and Ellie Bradach placed 2nd and 3rd to lead the attack. Charlotte Folinus was the top Lady Cat in 4th and Bleckley's Ellen Powell placed 5th overall leading the Lady Royals to a 4th place team effort. Lovett just edged Bleckley by 4 points placing 3rd.

Coach Chad McDaniel of Wesleyan talks about Wesleyan's efforts today, "I am so proud of our kids and it is an honor to compete against Westminster.  The boys & girls executed the game plan perfectly. Congratulations to Westminster's boys. We gave it our best and the competition was exciting. Our girls have struggled to stay healthy all season, and today was the second time this year that they have all been on the course at the same time. Chris Yoder (assistant) worked with the girls this season, training them, encouraging them, and lifting them up in prayer. I can't say enough about what he means to our program. Our girls clearly understood the message of Colossians 3:17 and that is the most important thing they could learn through the vehicle of XC. The concept of running for something greater than yourself is one that they embraced, and I truly believe they wanted to come back from injury to run for far more than themselves."

Josh Brickell was not to be denied....  Image by Pinion Photography


This was the race that Josh Brickell looked like a man among boys. Josh took it out early and never looked back clocking the best performance of the day at 15:55 on a much tougher State Course (especially with the addition of 'Separation Slope' a nasty very vertical hill out of view of most of the fans) The Team race was one for the ages as runners were packed so tightly together that MD Coach Craig Musselwhite prepped the finish line crew to get ready to utilize all 3 finish chutes! Mill Creek had a very spirited pre-race rally on the starting lane including the School Mascot, and it must have helped as Coach Christie's bunch fought tooth and nail for the win scoring 87 points for a 15 point win over Marietta. Tyler Woodrome led the Hawks with his 6th place finish and Eric Westog was ;10 back in 12th. Marietta's runnerup team finish was paced by the duo of Ben Pleak in 5th and Jake Bagwell in 10th. The Brookwood doubters were in full force on the Forum, but I knew better, especially when near the horse shoe how many Broncs were in in top 25 positions. The Podium streak is intact as they placed 3rd 4 points ahead of another Gwinnett school Norcross. They did it with a 3 pronged attack taking spots 4, 7,8 led by Armen Rehmann. Nathan Reich of Milton was a strong 2nd in 16:25 and Adel Yoonis of Wheeler had his best race of the season placing 3rd.

Coach Andy Christie of Mill Creek comments about Mill Creek's Team Title, "I am so proud of how the boys raced today, and really all year. It wasn't perfect but they raced gutsy and with a lot of heart. Marietta ran a great race and we enjoyed our friendly rivalry with them this season-congrats to Coach Coleman, his staff, and his boys on a great season. For us, going from being unranked in the pre-season to State Champs has been an incredible ride.  I told them back in the spring that we should train in the summer like we had a shot at the state title, and if we had to re-adjust our goals in the fall then we would.  They accepted the challenge and worked hard, and it all paid off.  We also had the added incentive of running for former XC team member Tajay Hoppines,  who graduated in May and passed away in August. We dedicated the season to him, so to win the title for him is something we are so proud of. This State Championship is a dream come true for us and I couldn't be prouder of them!"


Allie Buchalski is the best Girl in Georgia  Image by Pinion Photo


Walton was a slight favorite going into the race, but Brookwood had been improving on a weekly basis and this week was no exception as they took a surprising 34 point win. On the 1st loop it was trio of girls running together with Annie Kelly of Milton, Allie Buchalski of Johns Creek and Peyton Thomas running together.But by mile 2 Buchalski created separation and Kelly tried to go with her valiantly, but it was Allie's race today and she turned in the top Girls performance of the day in 18:46 Kelly finished :09 behind in 18:55 It was time for the team race to unfold then as Brookwood's duo of Quandra Shanks and Payton Wilson crossed the line next for big points. Walton came back strong taking the 6th-Alexa Womack, 8,10 and 14 team spots but, Brookwood then closed the deal taking the 15,20 and 23 team points. Walton did have a runner dnf and this created the gap perhaps. Peachtree Ridge ran well as a team taking the 3rd place Podium spot and Milton was a very strong 4th paced by Kelly. Leanne Zimmer of Lambert placed 5th overall and Lassiter's Morgan Ainslee placed 6th.

Coach Chris Carter of Brookwood commented on the race, "We knew it would be close & exciting with Walton. They are a talented team. Coach Gower's girls are a well-coached, talented, and tough. They are also a classy, nice bunch. It is always more fun when competing teams have a great deal of respect for each other, and we have a lot of respect for
Walton. The conditions were tough on Saturday, and our girls run well in that kind of environment. God has blessed me with a great bunch of girls this year."

Brad Hort of McIntosh runs all alone again at State for the title Image by Pinion Photo


McIntosh's 2 headed monster of Brad Hort and Sidney Speir was interesting to view this afternoon. I can't recall when a lead runner was that far ahead of his teamate in 2nd and that Speir had nearly a 75 meter advantage on the runner behind him. Hort crossed the line for the individual title in 16:22, with Speir making up some ground the final 900m finishing in 16:33 It was a fitting end to longtime McIntosh Coach Buckle's career as he retires a champion as well. Flowery Branch placed 2nd in the team race in standard Falcon fashion not having an All-State performer but with their 1-4 runners having a Split of :08 taking the 14, 16,17,19 overall spots led by Nicholas Ashmeade. Pope came out of the fray with the 3rd spot on the Podium led by their top runner all season Patrick Fleming as he placed 4th overall. Greenbrier (the webmaster's pick for 4th) followed suit only 10 points back placing 2 athletes on the All-State squad including Logan Hughes in 7th and Jon Townsend in 10th. The Augusta area was well represented on the All-State squad as Chase Fowers of Lakeside-Evans had a nice race placing 3rd, Justin Weegar of Evans was 5th and Richmond Hill's Corey Jones was 6th (That's 5 runners including the Greenbrier duo!)

Alex Cameron of Dunwoody puts it all together leading Dunwoody to a State Title  Image by Pinion Photography


The 5A Girls race was supposed to be one of the classes 'up for grabs' and the battle for the 2-4 Podium spots proved that much, but Dunwoody wasn't having any part of that as they rose up with their best team performance of the year as did Alex Cameron with her best race this season easily taking the title scoring 86 points 49 better than runnerup Lakeside-DeKalb. It was a tight race on the 1st loop, but Cameron created some separation over the LS-DK duo of Jenn Cora and Haley Keady who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively for the win in 19:49 Cora clocked a 20:08 with Keady a few meters back in 20:12 Dunwoody got alot of help from 4th place individual senior Kailey Williams in 20:15 Flowery Branch placed 3rd in a similar formula to the boys squad but winning on a '6th man tie-breaker over McIntosh as Cassie Ward placed 10th making the All-State squad with 2 more runners in the top 20. Cassidy Williams led McIntosh with her 9th place effort. Caitlin Connell placed 5th overall leading Winder-Barrow to a 6th place finish.

Austin Sprague of St.Pius X celebrates a well earned state title Image by Pinion Photography

AAA Boys

In a much hyped race, St.Pius X boys, who were ranked #1 All-Class for a few weeks totally deflated any challenge Woodward (who beat them last week at Region) and North Hall had of knocking the defending champs off. Pius wore the turf out as Austin Sprague took his time on the first loop, found his spot and just cruised away out of sight from a competitive field. Well, with the exception of teamate Calvin Tirrell who placed 2nd, and Joseph Ferrugia who was third and to add insult to injury, Andrew Anastasiades placed 5th a minute behind Sprague. Witt Nix of North Hall interupted the Pius 'Parade' taking 4th but Woodward ran well enough as a team to take the 2nd Podium spot by 3 points. Drew Sands led the Woodward effort placing 6th overall and his mates took the 12, 13 and 15 spots. Blessed Trinity was in the mix all the way placing 4th with 82 points as the Titans peaked at the right time led by Matt Munn's 7th place finish. North Oconee's young squad will be back next season and should chalk this year's race up as a learning experience placing 5th.

Coach Ryan McClay of St.Pius X talks about his Boys Team, "Wow. What a day. It seems losing at region was exactly the wake up call we needed. After our worst race of the year we were able to follow it up with what was probably our best race of the year. I knew the course would run slow, so we were very patient. North Hall and woodward also ran smart so the "battle royale" I was expecting was more like 3 teams looking at each other waiting for the other to make a move. so we moved first and they never looked back. It was a little earlier than we had discussed, but they were nervous. They peaked perfectly this year, and when they kept passing people they just couldn't stop. I never would have imagined going 1-2-3-5, that was insane. Austin took care of business after making sure it opened up slow for us. Calvin ran brilliant and hard. Joey ran gutsy. Andrew recovered after 3 poor races and I was so proud of him for that. And Stephen, our 5th seemed to finally have a run where his hamstring didn't bother him. Sergei stepped up in case we needed him. Thomas had health issues though. H's been struggling all year, but he's thrilled to have a state title. Too bad he was so injured this year. But as a team we ran perfectly. perfect strategy, perfectly executed, perfectly peaked, and perfectly finished. Just so proud of them, and so happy to finally have our best day at state. That course is just so hard, you have to be patient. I think we did all of the extra things right this week. We focussed on sleep and extra hydration even though it was cold all week because we knew it would be hot on race day. I think that made a big difference"

Jenn Gearing of White County smoked the AAA Girls competitition  Image by Ga.MileSplit.com

AAA Girls

St. Pius' girls made it a AAA sweep for the Catholic school (Marist-another Catholic school swept AAAA) It was supposed to be closer than this, but the Lady Golden Lions were hungry to repeat and scored only 36 points displacing Blessed Trinty (a Catholic school) by 27 points. When your top 6 places in the top 14 team spots a win is almost a given (Except for Wesleyan and Westminster's Girls race) Devon Dabney placed 2nd leading the charge in 20:21 followed by Margaret Crawford in 20:23  Blessed Trinity was sparked by 2 All-State performers including Anna Gandolfo in 4th place and Natalie Kile placing 10th. Jenna Gearing of White County left no doubts to anyone that she is the best runner in AAA as she powered away early, and stretched her lead the final 900 meters enroute to her 1st state title as a freshman in 19:34 leading the Lady Warriors to a 3rd place team finish. Teamate Kristen Mitchell had a great race placing 9th as well. Woodward Academy did it as a team taking the final Podium spot of the day besting North Hall by 3 points.

Coach Debbie Giulbeau commented on her Girls squad;" I figured the Girl’s AAA Race would be a tight one between BT and Pius. BT has a great team!  However, I felt we had a slight advantage because we had Devon Dabney back, and the more difficult the course the better our girls race. We did make a last minute game plan change Saturday. My assistant coach John Provenzano arrived at Carrollton Saturday morning before 8 am. He watched the early races, and noted that as the day got warmer the girls racing were slowing down considerable in their 2nd mile splits. We met with the top 7 before they even warmed up, and gave them slower mile 1 splits. We told Devon not to go out with the top pack of girls. We knew we had to let Gearing go as she is the best female xc runner in AAA. She is amazing and exciting to watch. Congratulations to her and to her team. So, we backed Devon up along with our pack of girls. We slowed their first mile down by 5 seconds. Fortunately, the team listened to us. As they hit mile two we told them to pick it up and start picking off the other runners who were now slowing down.  John and I knew at mile 2 we would win the championship. This is my 17th year as the head girls’ coach at St. Pius and the 2012 squad is the very best team I have ever had the opportunity to coach. "

Coach McClay commented in general on the State Course, "I don't think there was a single state champion today (except maybe Marist) that was winning at the mile. the teams that won were the patient teams that moved up after others went out too fast. So the teams that won were the ones that didn't go out AS fast and didn't pay for it AS much as the others, which allowed them to move up late. It's strange because Carrollton is now such a different type of course than what most teams are used to."