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North Hall boys, White County girls run to titles at 7-AAA championship

North Hall's Miles, White County's Gearing earn individual honors

POSTED: October 31, 2013 9:20 p.m.

HELEN — There was a correlation Thursday between having the fastest runner and the top overall cross country team at the Region 7-AAA championship meet at Unicoi State Park.

For the fifth consecutive season, the No. 2 North Hall boys had the fastest runner and took home the team championship, while the No. 3 White County girls repeated with the fastest individual athlete and team title heading into the state finals on Nov. 9 in Carrollton.

North Hall’s Quintin Miles capped off an exciting boys race with a winning time of 15 minutes, 54 seconds to edge out second-place finisher Dylan Forester of Dawson County by a second.

The Trojans boys piled four of their top finishers into top five overall to cruise to the region championship with 20 points, well ahead of No. 8 Buford (72), which placed second.

“I expected our guys to be able to win, so it’s not a surprise,” North Hall coach Drew Rogers said. “It’s great to see all the hard work they put into the season pay off.”

In the girls race, fans were eager to see if Warriors sophomore Jenna Gearing, the defending state champion in Class AAA, could turn a fast start into a new personal best.

She did just that with a time of 18:22, a new record for the defending region champion by 13 seconds, according to White County coach Sam Borg. White County’s girls were able to hold on to region honors with the help of a fourth place finish by Kristen Mitchell (20:21) and seventh by Kaitlyn Gearing (20:48).

No. 5 Buford’s girls had runners cross the finish line fifth (Bailey Roberts), sixth (Erin Marsh) and eighth overall (Megan Ward) to earn second place (49), while No. 6 North Hall was third on the girls side (52).

“We knew it was going to be a close team race, and we had to fight to get the win,” Borg said.

The top four programs all earned a berth to run in Carrollton. On the boys side that included third place Dawson County (100) and fourth place White County (116). The Dawson County girls, fourth overall, will also participate at state.

Also, any top six individual finishers not attached with a state qualifying team will run at state. Banks County’s Makayla Hewell (19:44), second in the girls race, was the only runner to qualify only on the individual basis.

The girls and boys championship races couldn’t have been any different in terms of the amount of drama as fans watched to see who would grab top honors.

In the boys race, Miles kept a minimal lead for the majority of the race, but he knew all along that Forester was right in his shadow.

As the two approached the finish line chute of the mountain course in Helen, Miles had one final kick needed to bring home the title he’s wanted so badly.

“This feels great winning the region title,” said Miles, a junior, who is trying to bring home a top-five spot at state.

“The reception I received was great, too.”

Also in the top six for the Trojans were Bryce Shuebert (third), Zack Hill (fourth) and Corson Teasley (fifth).

Buford’s Josh Thompson placed sixth (16:38).

In the girls race, Jenna Gearing displayed her dominant speed and proper management of her pace for the entire race, finishing 1:22 ahead of Hewell. Even with a state title to her name, winning the region title is still a big deal to Gearing.

“I feel like I have to do the best I can or I’m letting the rest of the team down,” she said.

Gearing’s strategy to staying motivated during the race is to imagine there’s another runner right behind her, even though by the end of this particular race there was about a 400-yard gap before the next runner crossed the finish line.

Borg says his only job with Gearing during the race is to make sure she has not expended too much energy in the first mile. White County’s coach said Gearing did a great job of that on Thursday.

“This was her smartest race all season,” Borg said.


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