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Cross Country: Region meet will feature top area talent
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If history is any indication, today’s Region 7-AAA cross country meet at Unicoi State Park should be another exciting race with teams competing for a coveted spot in the state meet.

All 12 teams in the region (including first-year West Forsyth) will be on hand for the 3.1-mile race on the challenging, mountainous course tucked away just north of Helen. The top four boys and girls teams and top six individual runners automatically earn a berth in the Nov. 10 state meet at Carrollton High.

And the Flowery Branch boys and North Hall girls are hoping to translate recent Hall County championships into region titles.

"It’s going to be a fun, exciting race," Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Sorrells said. "There’s going to be a lot of good competition."

Flowery Branch’s coach hopes to continue the school’s history of success. The Falcons’ boys have earned a spot in state the first six seasons of the school’s history. The Lady Falcons have traveled to state each of the past five seasons.

Fans should expect for the boys’ team title to be a neck-and-neck battle between Flowery Branch and West Hall. The Spartans narrowly won the first two meetings against the Falcons this season, before Flowery Branch (41) edged West Hall (43) at Hall County.

North Hall’s Nick Long and Nolan Clark should make a close battle for the individual title. Long is looking for his third straight individual title going into the state meet. He recently ran a personal best of 16-minutes, 15-seconds at the Coach Wood Invitational at Gainesville State College.

"This is a pretty big meet," Long said. "It’s a hard course, but I feel like our team can finish in the top four."

Long (17:24) won the Hall County championships on Oct. 11 and Clark finished third (17:39). Flowery Branch’s Daniel Martinez was runner-up at Hall County (17:30).

West Hall’s Andy Martin will also contend for the individual crown.

On the girls side, Patrice Sweet, a sophomore, is looking to repeat as the region champion. She won this season’s Hall County championship (21:18) en route to a team title for the Lady Trojans.

Other individuals to watch for the title include Flowery Branch’s Eileen Devico and Ali Wellborn, White County’s Sarah Walcott, North Hall’s Morgan VanGorder, and Chestatee’s Kelsey Neukum.

According to Sorrells, the wildcard in the girls race is West Forsyth with a competitive new team.

"The main goal for us is to qualify for state," Sorrells said.