Sports

August 22, 2013

Area prep cross country season preview: Christian Heritage joins the crowd

If there are any doubts about the quality of the local prep cross country scene, simply consider the accomplishments of last season, when five of the seven high school programs in Murray and Whitfield counties were represented at the Georgia High School Association’s state meets.

Seven total teams advanced, including both the boys and girls teams from Coahulla Creek and Northwest Whitfield. Dalton, Murray County and North Murray’s boys squads also advanced, and Dalton’s Bekah Houston competed as an individual in the final race of her decorated high school cross country career.

Northwest’s girls and Murray County’s boys each finished seventh in their respective state meets, Class 4A and Class 2A, and were the only local teams with a top-10 finish. At the region level, Dalton’s boys were the only local team to win a championship, but plenty of others were successful enough to qualify for a spot at state.

While it’s reasonable to expect more success for the area this year from both veteran performers and talented newcomers, The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Cross Country Runner of the Year awards for the top local boy and girl are guaranteed to have new names attached to them. Houston, who is now running for Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, won the honor the past three seasons. North Murray’s Isaac Pacheco, the boys winner each of the past two years, also graduated and will be part of Dalton State College’s new cross country program.

One other change follows a pattern. Christian Heritage School has added cross country for the first time and becomes the third new local program in as many years. The Lions and Lady Lions follow Morris Innovative (2012) and Coahulla Creek (2011) and push the total of area high school cross country boys and girls teams to 16, a number that stood at just half that five years ago.

Some area teams will begin competition Saturday at the Pickens Preview at Roper Park in Jasper, with others soon to follow. As competition continues over the next two months — high school meets are typically run on 5K (3.1-mile courses), with the top five finishers for each school counting toward the team score — all eyes will turn toward area or region meets in late October and early November.

Christian Heritage is in Area 4-A and will run on Oct. 31 at Darlington School. Morris Innovative and Murray County are in Region 7-2A and will run on Nov. 2 at Georgia Highlands College in Rome. Coahulla Creek and North Murray are in Region 5-3A and will run on Oct. 29 at Dellinger Park in Cartersville, and Dalton, Northwest and Southeast Whitfield are in Region 7-4A and will run on Nov. 2 at Roper Park in Jasper.

The top four teams and top six individuals at each of those meets will qualify for state. The GHSA’s 14 boys and girls state meets  are set for Nov. 9 at Carrollton High School. Class A is split into private and public schools for state competition, while Classes 2A through 6A are not.

Here’s a glance at local schools as the season approaches.

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