The streaks show how impressive cross country has been through the years in Hall County. Nothing has changed in 2017.
The Flowery Branch High boys have been to the all-classification meet in Carrollton every year since the school opened in 2002. This makes it 16-straight appearances for the Falcons boys, and 15 for the Flowery Branch girls (who began with only four runners in 2002).
The North Hall boys will make it 15 straight years lining up among the state’s best this Saturday in Carrollton.
Meanwhile, the Gainesville boys are one of the fast-rising programs in the county. The Red Elephants’ boys are going to state for the fourth consecutive year and looking to improve on a 10th-place spot in 2016.
After a strong run-up to the state meet, they’re all looking to place individual runners on the podium and get the entire team as high as possible against the rest of the best high school runners in the state.
“I feel really good about our kids,” Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Sorrells said. “We just want them to go down to Carrollton, enjoy the experience and do the very best they can do.”
North Hall (Class 3A), Chestatee (Class 4A) and Flowery Branch (Class 5A) have all qualified both squads and will have 14 runners total at state. The Red Elephants will have 8-6A individual champion Mugisha Beinvenu leading the charge for the boys’ program, and one runner from the girls’ program at state.
Flowery Branch’s Collin Kilgore (16 minutes, 18 seconds) and Erika Plummer (18:44) will run at state after winning 8-5A individual titles. North Hall’s Devan Crow was 7-3A champion with a time of 15:47.
This year, Sorrells has added a new wrinkle to his programs’ preparation, adapting an aspect of sports psychology to its training. Flowery Branch’s runners were instructed to write down race plans, then go over it with coaches to see where they stand mentally for the race in Carrollton.
Sorrells said he had the same back-and-forth communication about race expectations before the region meet at Unicoi State Park, and felt it had good results. He hopes for the same result at the state meet.
“We know they are going to be nervous about running at state, so we want to do as much as possible to reduce their anxiety,” said Sorrells, who has coached Flowery Branch’s boys to a state title in 2013 and girls to a runner-up spot back in 2011.
Now a two-day meet in Carrollton, the Flowery Branch boys will run the first race on the course at 9 a.m. Friday, followed immediately by the Class 5A girls’ race. The rest of the teams and individual-qualifying athletes from Hall County will go on Saturday.
Once they arrive in Carrollton, the routine is fairly similar for most teams. Arriving the day before competing, they get a chance to practice on the course the day before the race to get a feel for the challenging terrain.
Sorrells said that Flowery Branch even goes for a dress-up dinner together the night before the race: boys wearing a shirt and tie with dress pants, while girls wear dresses.
This year, he said they’ll be digging in for a carb-heavy dinner at Olive Garden.
“We want to make is special for the kids,” Sorrells said.
Gainesville’s boys enter state with a strong 1-2 punch of Beinvenu and Alex Sosa, who earned the top two spots respectively at region. Kilgore, a sophomore, is “dramatically improved” this season for Flowery Branch, according to Sorrells, and feels his runner has a good shot of a top-10 finish.
Leading the way for the Chestatee boys, Edwin Amaya took sixth at region (16:08).