From Staff Reports
Northwest Whitfield High School cross country coach Tom Sell believes he saw the best performance possible from both his boys and girls teams Friday at the Region 7-4A meet.
For the Lady Bruins, it showed their potential for next season. For the Bruins, it meant this season will go on another week.
Northwest Whitfield’s boys were runners-up to Pickens, while the Lady Bruins took fifth — one spot short of the finish necessary to qualify for state — as they turned in the best results among local programs at Roper Park in Jasper.
Dalton’s boys were fifth, while the Lady Catamounts were sixth. Southeast’s girls were seventh, while the Raiders were eighth but did have one individual qualifier — Luis Perez, whose fifth-place finish was inside the top-six cutoff for advancing to state as an individual.
It’s the sixth time in eight seasons under Sell’s guidance that the Bruins have advanced to the Class 4A state meet. All of the Georgia High School Association’s state meets will be held a week from today at Carrollton High School.
Pickens won the Region 7-4A boys meet with 30 points, well ahead of the Bruins’ 89. Heritage (110) and Gilmer (124) also advanced to state, with the latter edging Dalton by a point for the final team qualifying spot.
“I knew going in that we were going to have a fight on our hands with Pickens,” Sell said. “They’re just a very talented team. I knew kind of early on in the race — I could tell within the first mile — that the best we could hope for was second. But we ran well.”
Henson Gibbs’ sixth-place finish with a time of 17 minutes and 20 seconds on the 5K (3.1-mile) course led the Bruins. Lane Bramblett (11th, 18:01), Kyle Roberts (20th, 18:28), Dylan Richards (23rd, 18:41) and Brandon Bolino (29th, 19:08) also scored in the seven-run, five-score format.
“It kind of fell as we expected,” Sell said. “Henson has finished No. 1 for us every single race.”
In addition to being one point behind Gilmer in the boys race, Dalton’s 125 points were tied with River Ridge. But the Cats took fifth place over the Knights because Dalton’s No. 6 runner — Brandon Pineda (19:26) — came in before River Ridge’s sixth runner.
Scoring points for Dalton were Eduardo Loredo (19th, 18:27), Sergio Aguirre (22nd, 18:32), Saul Izaguirre (25th, 18:43), Jay Tripp (26th, 18:49) and Jose Boyzo (33rd, 19:25).
In the girls race, Heritage (22) dominated to take the title, while Pickens (59), River Ridge (96) and Cass (115) also qualified for state. Northwest (129) was nine points ahead of Dalton (138), which was well ahead of seventh-place Southeast (193).
Northwest’s team score was compiled by Nancy Paz (19th, 22:47), Jen Rivera (22nd, 23:07), Caroline Duffy (25th, 23:25), Samantha Wooten (30th, 23:40) and Ashley Sweeney (33rd, 23:53).
Sell said he was disappointed for the Lady Bruins but not disappointed in them.
“I was so pleased with the girls,” Sell said. “We have in our region three teams that are ranked in the top 10 in the state, but we kind of knew that fourth spot was up for grabs. I told our girls — I was up front with them — that they would have to dig and claw.
“We lost at least four starters from last year. They ran their hearts out, but they just came up short. They did everything that was asked, but sometimes in a loaded region that’s the way it works.”
Scoring for Dalton were Ashley Parham (24th, 23:22), Beronica Hernandez (26th, 23:26), Monica Vega (27th, 23:29), Santa Ibarra (29th, 23:37) and Bitia Paz (32nd, 23:49).
Like Sell, Dalton coach Karen Galyon was pleased with both of her teams despite the disappointment of no trip to Carrollton.
“We felt like we had done well with the girls,” Galyon said, “but Cass, who we had beaten a few times this season, came back and beat us and Northwest beat us. We were fighting very close with places, but everything counts and passing one or two people can make all the difference in the world.
“It’s a very competitive region and there’s some good teams and some good runners out there. We got beat fair and square. I was pleased with the effort and the kids worked hard and really tried as well as they could. It didn’t work out for state this year, but we’ll keep working.”
Southeast’s Perez, a freshman, led the Raiders with a time of 17:16.
“I knew he was capable of (qualifying for state),” Southeast coach Carrie Bishop said, “but with freshmen you never really know how they will handle things. He works really hard and trains extra on the weekends ... I knew he had a shot at it, but you never know how everybody is going to run compared to him.”
Bishop did not have complete places and times available but said Juan Ruiz (19:16), Daniel Triana, Cristian Gonzalez and Omar Ruiz also scored for the Raiders and that Isabel Salinas (10th, 21:25), Ana Padilla (20th, 22:58), Jessica Flores (50th), Maria Quijano and Jessica Cervantes scored for the Lady Raiders.
Several teams in Murray and Whitfield counties qualified for other state meets earlier this week. In Class 2A, Murray County’s boys and girls advanced by finishing second and fourth, respectively, at the Region 7 meet. In Class 3A, Coahulla Creek’s boys won the Region 5 title, while the Lady Colts advanced to state with a third-place finish.