Both SHS teams qualified for the state cross country meet in Carrollton later this month since they finished in the top four in the region standings. The Griffin Bears, also a member of this region, finished fifth in the boys standings. GHS didn’t have a girls varsity cross country team, but freshman Hannah Cook was the Lady Bears’ lone representative in the girls JV race, finishing 10th.
Eagle’s Landing High was the girls region champion with 34 points. The rest of the state-qualifiers were region runners-up Spalding with 63 points, followed by Upson-Lee (65) and Dutchtown (86). Locust Grove (106) and North Clayton (184) rounded out the team scores. Ashlie Johnson of Dutchtown finished first overall and was the individual region champion, running a time of 20:59.
On the boys side, Eagle’s Landing won the 2012 region title with 29 points, followed by region runners-up Spalding (62), Locust Grove (95) in third place and Upson-Lee (109). Those who missed state were Griffin with 158 points, North Clayton (192), Riverdale (211), Jonesboro (215) and Stockbridge (DNP). Brian Cato of Eagle’s Landing finished first overall and was the boys region champ with a time of 17:03.
It was a measure of redemption for the Lady Jags, who missed out on state last year for the first time in a decade. Needless to say, they were pretty glad to make a strong comeback as 2012 region runners-up.
“I’m proud of everyone today. I’m so happy that we’re going to state again after not going last year,” said Spalding senior Grenishia Daniel. “It will be good for us to run with the best at state.”
The Lady Jags had four girls finish in the top 15 in Thursday’s meet. Stephanie Estrada was the top finisher for the Spalding girls with a time of 23:17, good enough for 8th place. She was followed by Blair Dunaway (23:18, 9th), Li Anne Harris (23:36, 12th), Grenishia Daniel (23:50, 15th), McKenzie Dallas (PR 24:27, 19th), Emma Johnston (24:34, 20th) and Aleshia Jordan (26:13, 30th).
On the boys side, Spalding freshman Benjamin Parker kept his outstanding year going with a second-overall finish at 17:15, a personal-best for him. He was also proud that the boys finished region runners-up after finishing fourth last season.
“It feels great to be region runners-up this year. It was a hard run, but we did it,” said Parker. “It also is nice for me to set a personal record on my last race at home. Now as a team, we’ve got to finish it strong at state.”
Parker’s strong run wasn’t the only good finish for the Jags; nearly every other runner set a personal record Thursday. Daniel Blake was 10th with a personal-record time of 18:35, followed by Ryan Silvis (PR 19:00, 15th), Brett Piland (PR 19:18, 16th), Christian Gray (PR 19:27, 19th), Jonathan Mitchell (PR 20:20, 32nd) and Evan Davis (20:24, 34th).
The Bears of Griffin finished fifth and head coach Prelvis Paster believes if a couple of runners ran a bit better, they could’ve finished ahead of state-bound Upson-Lee.
“I think our results were from not running in a meet in three weeks. I had shoulder surgery and I took time to recover and we couldn’t hold practices,” Paster said. “We finished seventh in our region meet last year so I believe we’re improving. We just have to pick it up and do even better next year.”
Griffin’s Silent Penn was 18th with a time of 19:22, followed by Dwayne Harry (20:12, 31st), Cody Smith (20:21, 33rd), J.R. Ellis (20:28, 37th) and Shawnchavious Searcy (20:55, 44th). Terrell Collier ran but did not finish for Griffin.
REGION 4-AAAA CROSS COUNTRY MEET
Region Champ: Eagle's Landing (34 pts)
Runner-up: Spalding (63)
Region Champ: Eagle's Landing (29)
Runner-up: Spalding (62)
Griffin (158 pts - 5th place)