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Gainesville senior Beinvenu captures Hall County boys cross country championship
First-year runner finished in 17:57 on course at Chestnut Mountain
Mugisha Beinvenu
Gainesville High senior Mugisha Beinvenu navigates the course at the Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry during the Hall County Championships on Wednesday in Flowery Branch. - photo by David Barnes

Mugisha Beinvenu is thrilled he gave it a whirl running distance events. 

Ever since he moved to Gainesville from Africa to start high school when he was a freshman, what he really wanted to do was play soccer. However, when soccer didn’t work out, he was eager to find another way to be involved in sports.

Running the 5K distance for cross country seems to have been the perfect fit.

On Tuesday, Beinvenu conserved his energy for a late push to claim victory with a time of 17 minutes, 57 seconds to win the Hall County championship boys race at the freshly cut course on the campus of the Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry in Flowery Branch. His nearest competitor, North Hall’s Devan Crow, finished just one second back of the individual champion.

“Oh, winning is so exciting,” said the lanky Beinvenu, who lived in the African nations of Congo and Kenya before moving to the U.S.

In addition to Beinvenu’s win, Gainesville’s Alex Sosa earned seventh (18:43) and Daniel Ruiz finished eighth (19:04) as the Red Elephants claimed the team championship. 

Gainesville cross country coach Adam Miller continues to be impressed with the high standards his program has embraced.

“I’m very proud of this team,” said Miller. “They’re a prime example of what happens if you raise the expectations for what they can accomplish.”

In the girls’ race, Flowery Branch dominated with five runners in the top 10. Lady Falcons senior Erika Plummer (21:28) was first to cross the finish line, followed by second-place finish Shannon Hoolahan (22:25), third-place Hannah Grainger (23:02), seventh-place Elissa Oliver (24:47) and Larsyn Reid, who was ninth overall (25:09).

Plummer said she knew the course at Chestnut Mountain, flanked with high grass on the side, was going to be a challenge. She said Flowery Branch ran the course a few times for practice before hosting the county championship. 

“There were two really big hills out on the course, so it was pretty hard,” said Plummer, exhausted from running on a 90-degree fall afternoon.

Beinvenu confessed he didn’t even like running when he came to the U.S. He wanted to invest all his energy into playing soccer until he didn’t make the team for the Red Elephants. 

Still, Beinvenu wasn’t clamoring to run. That is, until he ran a 5:30 mile in his physical education class, prompting his teacher, Clay McDonald, to relay the information to Miller about a talented runner whom nobody knew anything about. 

Since this unexpected athlete was presented to Miller in January, the Red Elephants’ cross country coach encouraged Beinvenu to do track in the spring to grow accustomed to distance events. At the state meet in 2017, Beinvenu placed ninth overall in Class 6A with a time of 9:48 in the 3200-meter race (two miles).

This fall, Beinvenu took up cross country for the very first time. Miller said the rookie runner put every ounce of energy into getting better. Just last week, Beinvenu finished third overall after leading for most of the race in the 14-team field at the Riverside Military Invitational. 

With that experience, Beinvenu was careful to preserve energy better at the county championship. 

“This course for the county championship was really challenging,” said Beinvenu. “I did a better job of pacing myself today.”

Earning third in the boys race was Chestatee’s Edwin Amaya (18:05). In the team standings, North Hall’s boys were second, followed by Chestatee in third place. 

With the county championship concluded, runners turn toward respective championship meets in the coming weeks. The all-classification state championship is the first weekend of November in Carrollton.