Dalton High had the best individual runner and the best team Tuesday at its “Big Harry” Cross Country Race at Lakeshore Park in Dalton.
So did Northwest Whitfield.
The race, which was in its second annual running, featured those two teams plus Coahulla Creek, Morris Innovative and Gordon Lee on the 5K course that starts at Lakeshore and winds across Al Rollins Park.
But it essentially turned into a head-to-head clash between Dalton and Northwest, and the results played out similar to other times when those two schools have met this season.
Northwest’s Brody Cook won the boys race by 3 seconds before a neck-and-neck finish with Dalton’s Francisco Cruz and teammate Parker Cook — his twin brother — finishing in 18 minutes, 10 seconds. But Dalton runners finished fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth to take the team title by 11 points over the Bruins.
In the girls race, Dalton’s Bekah Houston finished nearly a minute ahead of the field to take the individual win in 20:56, but Northwest runners took five of the top seven places to win the team title by 20 points over the Lady Cats, 21-41.
“That’s sort of the way it has been all year long when these two teams go head to head,” Dalton coach Karen Galyon said. “We’ve competed against each other all season long, and that is the way it has been for our teams. We are glad to have a nice local meet for the area schools.”
Dalton and Northwest will face each other again on Nov. 1 in the Region 7-3A meet at Roper Park in Jasper, which could be a championship race filled with unknowns. Galyon said because so many North Georgia schools compete in the Chattanooga Area Cross Country League in the regular season, this will be the first time both local schools will face their region competitors.
“I know Pickens is strong and Heritage’s girls have dominated this season, but we have never run against River Ridge, and they are supposed to be one of the top teams in the state,” Galyon said. “It will be a hard-fought race on a very tough course to see who will represent the region at state.”
The top six individual runners and the top four teams at the region meet will advance to the state meet Nov. 10 in Carrollton.
“I’m not sure what is going to happen at region, but we will have a good strong team,” Brody Cook said of the region meet. “Us and Dalton both have strong teams this year, and we will both put up good times and see what happens.”
Dalton’s Houston has earned a reputation as one of the most dominating female runners — she was The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year the past two seasons — and the senior certainly lived up to it on Tuesday.
She and Northwest’s Shelby Wilson had already separated themselves from the pack after an opening lap around the park’s quarter-mile paved track. By the time they had reached the 1-mile marker, they were 30 seconds ahead of the next runner and the mile marker was also where Houston started to earn some separation from Wilson.
Houston repeated as the event champion with the exact same time as last season, while Wilson was second with a time of 21:53. Both runners agreed that pushing each other has been beneficial this season.
“I definitely think that it helps to have someone like Shelby on the course with me,” Houston said. “We have run together so many times before, and I know that she is going to be at the top. It is a great to have someone like that to pace off of each other.”
“It pushes us both a lot,” she said. “Anytime I can see Bekah, I am running to her. We are both very competitive against each other in cross country and track.”
Northwest’s Natalie Williams (22:27), Nancy Paz (23:08) and Karli Williams (23:29) finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively, while Caroline Duffie was seventh in 23:45 to round out the team’s scoring. Houston was joined by teammates Ashley Parham (sixth, 23:39), Bitia Paz (10th, 24:21), Rosa Bibian (12th, 24:50) and Santa Iberra (14th, 25:05).
Coahulla Creek and Morris Innovative competed as well, but the latter — a first-year program — didn’t have enough runners to register a team score. Coahulla Creek’s Lady Colts were third with 82 points with Haley Hight (13th, 24:58), Evelyn Battelo (18th, 25:35:20), Bethany Goodwin (19th, 25:35:40), Elizabeth Trejo (20th, 25:55) and Gisel Maldonado (26th, 27:38) earning points.
Gordon Lee finished with 126 points.
For the Dalton boys, Cruz was joined by Eduardo Loredo (fifth, 18:27), Gerardo Martinez (sixth, 18:33), Ozzy Bastida (seventh, 18:35) and Brandon Pineda (eighth, 18:43). In addition to Brody and Parker, Northwest got scoring times from Henson Gibbs (fourth, 18:24), Brandon Bolino (15th, 19:20) and Lane Bramblett (16th, 19:41).
Coahulla Creek, which finished with 76 points, received scoring times from Missael Fraire (ninth, 18:44), Sadoth Fraire (12th, 18:49), Junior Villareal (13th, 18:58), Caleb Carlson (14th, 19:11) and Junior Perez (19th, 19:51).
Gordon Lee finished with 120 points.
The course and race are named after the late “Big Harry” Renz, who was influential in the area’s prep running scene and helped start Dalton High’s annual invitational track and field meet.