By Chris Whitfield and Devin Golden
Northwest Whitfield High School cross country coach Tom Sell said he gave his boys team a bit of an easier week leading into today’s Class 4A state meet.
He hopes the Bruins respond with a top-of-the-pack finish.
The Bruins are one of five local teams heading to the state cross country meets Saturday on the 5K (3.1-mile) course at Carrollton High School. Murray County and Coahulla Creek are sending both their boys and girls teams, and the Coahulla Creek boys squad is the only local one heading to state on the heels of a region championship. Southeast Whitfield isn’t sending its whole boys team, but Luis Perez did well enough in the Region 7-4A meet to qualify as an individual.
Coahulla Creek’s boys join other qualifying Class 3A schools for a 7:45 a.m. start, while the girls begin the Class 3A meet at 8:25. Northwest’s team, plus Perez, and the rest of the Class 4A boys field begins at 9:10. Murray County runs against the Class 2A boys field at 10:35 and the Murray County girls start at 11:15.
Northwest finished second to Pickens in last week’s Region 7-4A meet. Sell and the Bruins are aiming for at least a top-15 finish.
“I would like to finish in the top 10,” Sell said.
To do that, Northwest must run better than its last showing, Sell said. Henson Gibbs finished sixth overall, while Lane Bramblett (11th) and Kyle Roberts (20th) were the only other top-20 placers.
“This week I’ve taken it real easy,” Sell said Monday. “I get the sense we’re real tired. I’ve given them today and tomorrow off. We’ll do a speed workout Wednesday and come back Thursday and Friday.
“You have to really get them up for region. You really can’t be off. You have to stay on. A big thing is getting them really pumped up for region and then turn right around and get them pumped up for state.”
Southeast’s Perez finished fifth in the region meet to qualify as an individual, which requires a sixth-place cutoff for a runner not on a qualifying team. He ran the 5K course at Jasper Park in 17 minutes, 16 seconds.
While the freshman never has ran at Carrollton’s course, he’s hoping for a similar time and finish.
“He shaved a minute off his personal best during region just because he wanted to be up there,” Southeast coach Carrie Bishop said. “I expect him to do another personal record just because that’s the type of drive he has. I think he’ll do well, but it’s hard to say because he has never been in that type of atmosphere before.”
Coahulla Creek’s boys team swept the top four spots at the finish of the Region 5-3A meet last week in Cartersville, while the Lady Colts were third in the region. The title for the boys was the first region title in the history of the third-year school in Varnell, and this is the third-straight trip to state for the Colts. Sadoth Fraire will led the team after winning region with a time of 17 minutes, 3 seconds.
Morgan King led the Lady Colts with a fourth-place finish at region.
Murray County’s boys finished second in the Region 7-2A boys meet last week, but coach Sam Young hoped for a championship.
Still, a second-place finish hands Murray County another chance for a strong run to close the season
“You don’t want their season to end on a down note even though second in the region is nothing to frown at,” Young said. “You want them to feel good about how they performed on their last race of the season.”
Murray County, led by Servio Martinez’s 11th-place finish at the region meet, has six seniors and one sophomore.
“Saturday will be their last run of the school for cross country,” Young said. “You want them to feel good about how they did and they didn’t feel good about it. ... They are very positive. Mentally, I think they will be prepared. Physically, I know they are.”
On the girls side, Murray County finished fourth in the region meet. Young said it was the first time the Lady Indians made the state meet as a team in “close to 30 years.”
“We’ve had individuals make it.” “We’re excited about that.”
Nicole Hammett is the roster’s lone senior but junior Kaitlyn Richardson is the team’s top runner.
“It’ll absolutely be good for all the kids to go and see this,” Young said. “I think our entire team will go and watch, which is great because it’s something to see hundreds and hundreds of kids there.”