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Chestatee boys, girls sweep Region 8-AAAA cross country meet
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Chestatee High’s Jack Carnes completes the race at Williams Mill Greenspace Park during the Region 8-AAAA championship cross country meet Wednesday afternoon. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Region 8-AAAA meet
Boys team results
1. Chestatee
2. Johnson
3. Stephens County
4. Lanier
5. Eastside
6. Walnut Grove
7. Lumpkin County
8. Monroe Area
9. Madison County

Girls team results
1. Chestatee
2. Lanier
3. Walnut Grove
4. Lumpkin County
5. Eastside
6. Johnson
7. Stephens County

The Chestatee High cross country program was without a region championship before Wednesday’s Region 8-AAAA meet in Flowery Branch. Now the War Eagles have two.

The War Eagles girls won with four of the top six to cross the finish line on the rolling terrain of the Williams Mill Greenspace Park five-kilometer course, hosted by Johnson High. Meanwhile, sophomore Jack Carnes finished second overall with a time of 19 minutes, 12.4 seconds in the boys race to steer its winning effort.

“This feels great,” Chestatee coach Mark Dunn said. “It’s all about running a good calculated race on this course and not about a set time.”

The top four teams, and any individual finisher in the top six whose team is not headed to state, will run in the state championship meet in Carrollton on Nov. 10. The four headed to state from the boys race based on performance at region are Chestatee (38 points), Johnson (72), Stephens County (79) and Lanier (95).

Girls state qualifiers are Chestatee (25), Lanier (71), Walnut Grove (92) and Lumpkin County (112).

In the girls race, Chestatee junior and race winner Sarah Beth English (22:15) and runner-up Tori Mullinax (22:16) were the only two runners in sight when they crossed the line 1-2 on a course not conducive to running a personal best, with five distinct hills for runners to navigate. According to Mullinax, the finishing stretch was the toughest with back-to-back hills to navigate before reaching the short sprint to the finish.

“We really mentally prepared for this race,” Mullinax said. “We know that there’s not going to be any PR’s here.”

English said the War Eagles did all the right things to be ready for region and have the right amount of downtime heading into the state championship in nine days.

English said they tapered to have fresh legs for the region meet and also had previous experience running on the course in Flowery Branch to know the right way to tackle all the inclines without running out of steam before the end.

“We’re a very close knit group,” English said. “We’ve prepared for this race all season.”

After English and Mullinax finished at the line just one second apart, it was another 45 seconds before third-place finisher Deanna Lewis (22:59.5), out of Stephens County, crossed the line.

For Chestatee’s girls, the average time of its seven runners was 23:14, nearly two minutes better than region runner-up Lanier. Chestatee’s Maggee Wilson (23:02) was third on the team and fourth overall. Shelby Bennett (sixth overall) and Yaritza Carrillo (12th) also ran solid races for the War Eagles girls. Celeste Norton (24:25, 10th) led the Lumpkin County girls to a state championship berth.

In the boys race, Carnes, a first-year cross country runner, found separation, primarily going uphill, during the second-half of the course. Carnes has gradually improved all season, peaking with his 16:55 he ran at the Gilmer Invitational. Chestatee’s Jason Dang finished sixth overall (19:34), Jose Reyes-Lavallee placed seventh (19:35) and Edgar Guerrero was 10th (19:44).

For Johnson, Junior Suarez finished fifth (19:32) and Luis Castaneda was ninth overall (19:39). The winner of the boys race was Ervin Martinez from Lanier with a time of 19:05.7.

Regional events