From Staff Reports
Behind strong individual finishes from Natalie Williams and Servio Martinez, the Northwest Whitfield girls and Murray County boys cross country squads headed the pack of local teams competing in Saturday’s state meets at Carrollton High.
The Lady Bruins finished seventh in Class 4A while the Indians matched that same spot in the Class 2A race. Also in 4A, Northwest’s boys finished in 12th with Dalton’s boys three spots behind. Coahulla Creek’s boys finished 15th and the Lady Colts were 19th in Class 3A.
North Murray’s boys were 21st in 3A.
Marist swept the Class 4A meet, with the boys scoring 44 points and the girls earning 46. In the girls meet, Heritage-Catoosa finished second with 66 points, followed by Alexander (122), Chestatee (175), Pickens (196) and Grady (249). Teams qualified for state by finishing among the top four in their region.
While teams could enter up to seven runners, only the top five counted toward the team’s score.
The Lady Bruins had 278 points, led by Williams’ 26th-place finish in 21 minutes, 43 seconds on the 5K course. Shelby Wilson (34th, 21:59), Caroline Duffy (73rd, 23:24), Nancy Paz (77th, 23:33), Karli Williams (82nd, 23:43), Shelly Hendricks (92nd, 23:56) and Ashley Sweeney (135th, 25:17) also ran for Northwest.
“I think it’s a tribute to our team because we lost one senior last year,” Northwest coach Tom Sell said. “Both teams being eighth in the region last year and finishing 12th and seventh in state, it’s a tribute to the people we have.”
Dalton’s Bekah Houston, who qualified for state as an individual by finishing in the top six at region, finished 24th in 21:36 in Carrollton. The senior, who was running at state for the fourth time, had the best place and time for any area girl Saturday.
“Considering all the times, she did well,” said Karen Galyon, Dalton’s coach. “She did around where she usually runs compared to the competition.”
Both Northwest squads missed out on state last year as they finished eighth at region, but a Lady Bruins squad that finished fourth in the Region 7-4A meet just a week and a half ago had the program’s best finish at state in a decade. The boys had the second-best state finish in that same span.
In the 4A boys race, Alexander (157) finished second, followed by Wayne County (159), LaGrange (205), Perry (222), Pickens (225), Hephzivah (272), Sandy Creek (280), Veterans (287), Eagle’s Landing (325), Mary Person (326), Northwest (329), Stone Mountain (341), Columbus (371) and Dalton (392).
Parker Cook (23rd, 17:41) and his twin brother and fellow senior, Brody Cook (24th, 17:44) paced Northwest. Henson Gibbs (52nd, 18:27), Brandon Bolino (111th, 19:07), Luke Stevens (131st, 19:23), Lane Bramblett (145th, 19:35), and Dylan Richards (151st, 19:39) also competed for the Bruins, who finished third at region.
“It is bittersweet, because we were so close to the top 10,” Sell said, noting this was the first time in nine races his boys beat Region 7-4A champion Dalton.
“To beat them is just great. We’ve been after them all year. We like to beat them and they like to beat us. That’s healthy for sports.”
Brandon Pineda (43rd, 18:20) led Dalton’s boys. Francisco Perez (46th, 18:22), Anthony Hernandez (88th, 18:51), Ozzie Bastida (114th, 19:11), Trey Hurt (117th, 19:12), Eduardo Loredo (141st, 19:31) and Gerardo Martinez (149th, 19:38) also ran for the Catamounts.
“The boys were disappointed. I think they were hoping to get into the top 10,” Galyon said. “You really have to get out, and I think they started back a little farther than they planned on. With those caliber runners, it’s tougher to catch up. I think we had a very good season.”
In Class 2A, Murray County turned in a performance that was both rewarding for the present and promising for the Indians’ future.
Their seventh-place showing was accomplished with just one senior, Martin Contreras — five juniors and freshman Antonio Martinez made up the rest of the lineup Saturday. It’s the best result among the only two Murray County teams coach Sam Young is aware of having competed at state in program history. The 2008 Indians placed 10th in Class 4A, but that team was greatly helped by a 13th-place finish from Josh Stanley.
For this year’s Indians, it was more of a group effort as all of the runners who scored points Saturday — seven run and the top five placers register the team’s score — finished within a minute and a half of each other. Servio Martinez (27th, 18:56) led the way, while Ivan Delgado (38th, 19:09), Martin Contreras (58th, 19:38), Filiberto Nunez (63rd, 19:48) and Antonio Martinez (89th, 20:27), Jose Ruiz (113th, 20:57) and Tony Bautista (138th, 21:24) also competed.
The Indians finished with 266 points, behind Westsminster (39), Wesleyan (47), Bleckley County (178), Lovett (190), Model (193) and Riverside Academy (233). Ranked seventh in the Ga.MileSplit.com Class 2A boys coaches poll going into state, Young hoped to see the team at least hold up to their rating.
“The good thing is they all got to experience (state), and Martin’s the only senior I had, so maybe we’ll get to make a return trip,” Young said. “That would be good.”
Contreras will definitely be missed, though. Young said the senior “stepped it up” late in the season after typically being the sixth or seven finisher among the Indians earlier in the schedule. He was the team’s fifth finisher at region and the third Indian to cross the line in Carrollton.
“I think he was hungry for it,” Young said.
Outside of Servio Martinez and Delgado as mainstays in the 1-2 spots throughout the season, the Indians were competitive with each other, too, and Young believes those “battles” helped them all.
At the start of the year, the only goal the Indians really set was to finish in the top four at region and qualify for state — they ended up taking second in 7-2A — but there was eventually a realization that even more was possible.
“As we got closer to the region meet, you can see times online and things like that, and I got to looking and it was like, ‘Hey, we might be able to compete at the state level,” Young said. “I started talking to the guys to challenge them about what we could or couldn’t do, and they accepted the challenge.”
In Class 3A, St. Pius X swept, with the boys and girls each earning 36 points. In the boys race, Woodward Academy (67), North Hall (70), Blessed Trinity (82), North Oconee (186), Oconee County (226), Cartersville (236), Chapel Hill (273), Hart County (283), Buford (306) West Hall (369), Cross Keys (371), Dawson County (389), Savannah Arts Academy (398) and Coahulla Creek (413) rounded out the top 15.
North Murray, which finished with 599 points, was led by Isaac Pacheco. The senior, who won the Region 5-3A meet to help his team take fourth place, finished 41st in 18:21 on Saturday. Jesus Cruz (104th, 20:04), Anthony De Santiago (136th, 20:54), Chris Joaquin (157th, 21:27), Ismael Cruz (167th, 22:03), Javier Alfaro (171st, 22:14) and Brandon Gonzalez (204th, 26:25) also ran for the Mountaineers.
“We were hoping for a little higher placing with a lot of the guys,” North Murray coach Matt Chambers said. “They did change the course up and it had hills throughout. It was a really tough course. I’m still proud of the boys. We had a really good year. We went to state, so you can’t complain about that.”
Sadoth Fraire (63rd, 19:10) led Coahulla Creek. Caleb Carlson (76th, 19:24), Missael Fraire (84rd, 19:46), Blake Phillips (88th, 19:48), Oscar Andres (107th, 20:08), Ronny Vargas (108th, 20:11) and Luis Lee-Martinez (140th, 20:58) rounded out the Colts runners. J.V. Villareal, one of Coahulla Creek’s top runners, did not race due to a “cartilage issue” in one of his knees, coach Ben Williams said. Lee-Martinez subbed for him.
“We had been taking it easy on him and seeing how he would be,” Williams said. “Coming up to the race, it seemed it would be more harm on him if we tried to race, so we made that call at the last minute.”
Coahulla Creek’s boys team has advanced to state each of its first two years in existence. Williams acknowledge Saturday’s race was “very competitive” and said his team was in range of its expected performance, although the Colts had “hoped to be a little more competitive.”
The Lady Colts got within the top 20 with 575 points. Following St. Pius X in the girls top 10 were Blessed Trinity (63), White County (102), Woodward Academy (133), North Hall (136), North Oconee (150), Chapel Hill (153), Savannah Arts Academy (303), West Hall (304) and Oconee County (305).
Bethany Goodwin (75th, 24:22) led the Lady Colts, while Hayley Hight (90th, 24:55), Elizabeth Trejo (134th, 26:50), Evelyn Botello (141st, 27:24), Rachel Cherry (169th, 29:17), Nicole Miller (170th, 30:05) and Gisel Maldonado (176th, 30:52) also ran for the Lady Colts.
“Their finish was strong,” Williams said. “We have a young team. We have only two returning runners who were with us last year. It’s been almost a complete turnover with the girls. Some of them are new to cross country. That’s a big accomplishment for the varsity squad.”