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Cross country athletes tuned up for region championships
Runners compete in the Hall County championship earlier this month at Riverside Military Academy. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Cross country
region schedule

Region 8-AAAAA
8:30 a.m. Saturday; Georgia International Horse Park, Conyers

Region 8-AAAA
4:45 p.m. Thursday; Unicoi State Park, Helen

Region 8-AA
4:30 p.m. today, Riverside Military Academy, Gainesville

Building championship cross country teams is all about peaking at the end of the season, according to Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Sorrells.

His formula seems to have to worked. The Falcons boys are the defending Class AAAAA state champions and have three state titles since 2008.

“The last few years, we’ve been blessed with some great runners,” said Sorrells. “We feel good about the group we have this year too.”

All year, Sorrells, as he has in years past, preached the importance of preparing for the two biggest meets. The first, the Region 8-AAAAA championship, is Saturday at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers.

Like in every region, a top-four team spot or top-six individual finisher for runners not on a top-four team, earn a berth to the all-classification state meet on Nov. 8 in Carrollton.

Region 8-AAAA runs its championship meet Thursday at Unicoi State Park in Helen. White County’s Jenna Gearing, a junior, will be looking to claim her third straight region title.

Also in 8-AAAA, North Hall’s boys are looking to claim its sixth straight region title, now running in a crowded field with North Oconee, Buford, Chestatee and Johnson.

Consistently the top runners in Hall County all season, Johnson’s Junior Suarez will be in contention to win the Region 8-AAAA title, along with Chestatee freshman Lindsey Grater — both the Hall County champions earlier this month.

“It should be a very exciting race,” Trojans coach Drew Rogers said.

According to Rogers, the depth of Region 8-AAAA is extensive. There will be teams with talent that don’t get a spot to the state meet next month.

“The bottom line is if we don’t run well, we won’t win,” said Rogers.

North Hall, the defending state runner-up, is led on the boys side by Quintin Miles, while the girls are paced by Makayla Ellis.

In Class A, the Towns County girls are looking to make it three straight state titles among public schools this season.

Today, Riverside Military will host the Region 8-AA championship. According to Eagles coach Jim Myers, Union County is likely the team to beat on both sides, while the Eagles have been steady at No. 2 in the region this year. Riverside Military is led by seniors Lexx Joya, Evan Soggs and Robert McMorrow.

While, in Region 8-AAAAA, Flowery Branch has claimed four straight region titles on the boys’ side. Winder-Barrow has won four straight region titles in the girls’ ranks.

The Falcons top runners on the boys side this season have been juniors Jake Shewbert, Grant O’Callaghan and Shawn Olmstead. For Flowery Branch’s girls, senior Cassie Ward and freshman Maria Millsap have run the best times.

This season, Sorrells have divided up the coaching duties with Richard Ramsey, who has taken over the official title of girls coach, even though both programs train together. According to Sorrells, the Gainesville boys have also been greatly improved this season and will contend for a state spot.

Hall County’s most improved program this season on both sides has been Johnson. Not only do the Knights have the top boys runner in Suarez, but also the girls won the Hall County title.

The Johnson boys are also led by senior captain Juan Soto and sophomore Isaac Hernandez. The Knights girls are led by junior Hannah Rogers and freshman Molly Hayes.

“Most of our runners have really impressed me this year, honestly,” Johnson coach Lauren Carter said. “As a team we have grown so much.”

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