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Chestatee boys, girls earn Region 8-AAAA cross country titles
Johnson's Gerardo Suarez won with new course record 18:01
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Johnson cross country runner Gerardo Suarez crosses the finish line alone and with a course record at Williams Mill Greenspace in Flowery Branch Wednesday afternoon at the Region 8-AAAA championships. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Region 8-AAAA meet
at Williams Mill Greenspace, Flowery Branch
Boys team results

1. Chestatee 32
2. Johnson 54
3. Lumpkin County 84
4. Walnut Grove 105
5. Stephens County 134
6. Lanier 155
7. Eastside 179
8. Madison County 189

Girls team results

1. Chestatee 26
2. Lumpkin County 53
3. Johnson 61
4. Lanier 82
5. Walnut Grove 125
6. Madison County 173
7. Eastside 185

Boys Individual results

1. Gerardo Suarez Johnson 18:01
2. Jack Carnes Chestatee 18:35
3. Jason Dang Chestatee 18:41
4. Tristin Duckworth Lumpkin County 18:46
5. Austin Vonkutzleben Walnut Grove 18:51
6. Ivan Martin Chestatee 18:51
7. Logan Brock Chestatee 19:17
8. Tristen Powell Stephens County 19:38
9. Noe Lopez Johnson 19:44
10. Freddy Velasquez Johnson 19:50

Girls Individual results

1. Deanna Lewis Stephens County 22:15
2. Maggee Wilson Chestatee 22:56
3. Evelin Avitia Johnson 22:58
4. Abbie Cliche Chestatee 23:02
5. Celeste Norton Lumpkin County 23:11
6. Merrie Barnett Chestatee 24:23
7. Shelby Bennett Chestatee 24:35
8. Arisbel Saucedo Johnson 24:46
9. Britt Payne Lumpkin County 25:06
10. Rileigh Stringer Lumpkin County 25:28

Chestatee High is building quite a reputation as the cross country power to beat in Region 8-AAAA.

On Wednesday, the War Eagles girls placed four runners in the top six and the boys placed three as both repeated as region champs on the rolling terrain of the Williams Mill Greenspace in Flowery Branch.

In the boys race, Gerardo Suarez of Johnson set a new course record by more than a minute (18:01) to earn the boys title, while Stephens County sophomore Deanna Lewis took home the individual title in the girls race at 22:15.

However, it was the War Eagles that packed their top runners together to earn the team title in both varsity races.

Jack Carnes took home second for Chestatee (18:35) and was followed close behind by third-place finisher Jason Dang (18:42) and Ivan Martin (18:52) in sixth place to give the War Eagles a race-best 32 points.

Chestatee did equally well in the girls race with Maggee Wilson crossing second overall (22:55), while teammate Abbie Cliche earned fourth (23:02). Merrie Barnett of Chestatee took sixth place (24:23) as the team finished with 26 points.

Lady War Eagles coach Meghann Pruett said that winning region titles is a matter of having runners jump into those critical top six individual spots to help the point total.

“Our girls ran great,” Pruett said. “I’m extremely proud of their performance.”

According to Pruett, Wilson set her race apart after a perfect pace through the first mile, which is regarded as the most challenging part of the course. In the boys race, Carnes held steady in the second position after Suarez jumped to the frontrunner position right after the starting gun sounded.

The top four programs from each race earned an automatic berth into the state meet on Nov. 9 at Carrollton High.

Joining Chestatee from the boys side is Johnson (54 points), Lumpkin County (83) and Walnut Grove (105).

Girls programs that qualified for state with Chestatee are Lumpkin County (53), Johnson (61) and Lanier (82).

As a top six individual finisher not attached to a qualifying team, Lewis also earned a berth to state.

“That’s been my goal all season to come out here and win the region title,” Lewis said. “This is a great feeling.”
However, no performance could match that of the 5-foot-1, 95-pound Suarez, who left the rest of the boys field behind early and cruised to a win by 33.7 seconds. The Johnson sophomore had a very specific race strategy to conquer the course: start fast, pace himself in the middle and sprint to the finish.

“He started so fast and then I didn’t see him again after that,” Carnes said.

Suarez said that the warmer-than-normal weather for the end of October made it even easier to stay on track for victory. The diminutive Knights distance specialist has very intense training, which he says includes eight miles in practice.

For his effort, Carnes was excited to keep Chestatee on top in Region 8-AAAA.

“We knew our girls were going to come out here and win, and we’re just happy to join them,” Carnes said.

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