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Flowery Branch, North Hall lead pack of local runners to Saturday's cross country state meet
Falcons, Trojans qualified both teams to race in Carrollton
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State meet schedule

Start times for area teams:

Class AA boys: (Riverside Military) – 1:25 p.m.

Class AAA boys: (Banks Co., Dawson Co., East Hall, West Hall, Jackson Co. and Jefferson) 10:35 a.m.

Class AAA girls: (Banks Co., Dawson Co., Lumpkin Co., Jackson Co. and Jefferson) 11:15 a.m.

Class AAAA boys: (Chestatee, Johnson, North Hall and Buford’s Andone Mendoza) Noon

Class AAAA girls: (Johnson, North Hall, White Co. and Buford’s Sarah Davis) 12:40 p.m.

Class AAAAA boys: (Flowery Branch and Gainesville) 9:10 a.m.

Class AAAAA girls: (Flowery Branch) 9:40 p.m.

Saturday is shaping up to be a very wet day to add on to an already saturated ground — the least desirable conditions for hundreds upon hundreds of runners to compete for a cross country state championship.

The GHSA state meet for all classifications are converging on the hilly campus Carrollton Elementary, the yearly spot for the race, today in order to compete at the pinnacle of high school cross country.

For Flowery Branch, the boys and the girls won region titles this season. Both teams are repeat region champions from a year ago.

Coach Jimmy Sorrells said winning Region 8-AAAAA titles are momentum builders heading into the state meet. Having runners who ran at the state meet last year helps too.

“That experience is invaluable,” Sorrells said. “It can’t be measured. Not just from the physical aspect of running the race, but the mental.”

With some high school sports, brackets come into play and usually carry with them “best of” series. That’s not the case in cross country.

“With cross country, it’s just one race,” Sorrells said. “You have no room for error. You have to execute that day.”
Gainesville’s boys qualified for the state meet out of Region 8-AAAAA as well. The Red Elephants finished second as a team.

North Hall coach Drew Rogers, who also had both squads qualify for the state meet, said the biggest thing that gets runners in trouble their first time on the state course is trying to do too much too fast.

“A lot of people go down there and try to do something they haven’t done all year,” Rogers said. “You have to stay within yourself. If you’re feeling good in the second half, go try to do something you haven’t done before.”

Rogers is hoping, with only having two girls and four boys who have run the course before, that his few veterans will give the newer runners some advice.

“The state meet course is a very tough course,” he said. “You have to bide your time. If you go too fast, it’ll eat you up. We’ve been hoping the veterans have been telling the younger ones not to go out and win it in the first mile.”

In Class AAAA, Johnson High has both the boys and girls taking on the state course, which begins on a wide-open downhill slope. The boys finished third in the Region 8-AAAA meet, while the girls finished fourth.

Knights’ senior Junior Suarez finished second at region in Helen.

Chestatee’s boys and White County’s girls emerged from Region 8-AAAA as well.

The Lady Warriors placed second behind four-time region winner Jenna Gearing. Freshman teammate Jaelen Alexander crossed the finish line just behind her.

Buford’s Andone Mendoza placed sixth in the Region 8-AAAA boys’ race to qualify as an individual for the state meet. Lady Wolves’ runner Sarah Davis finished fourth individually to move on.

West Hall and East Hall both had their boys advance from the Region 7-AAA meet, while Lumpkin County’s girls qualified for state.

Banks County and Dawson County saw both their boys and girls qualify for Carrollton in the region meet.
Riverside Military will advance to compete in the Class AA meet today.

Earlier in the week, the GHSA released poor weather guidelines for all coaches and runners to be aware of as prepare for the event. Those guidelines included keeping all runners off the state course the day before the event, which Sorrells said is the “right call.”

The Class AAAAA race will be ran in the morning, which is somewhat of a relief to Sorrells.

“It’s grass, you don’t want to tear it up,” he said. “We’re the second classification running. We’re not worried about that. If I were one of those coaches (whose team was) running in the afternoon, I’d be concerned.”

Rogers, whose Class AAAA teams won’t be running until approximately noon and 12:40 p.m., said his team is prepared for the unfortunate weather.

“We had a race earlier this year at Conyers and it was pure mud. We’re used to it,” Rogers said. “We’re preparing the kids. There’s really nothing you can do. We all have spikes. You just can’t get frustrated by it. Times might not be good, but you just have to go out and run.”

Sorrells said he’s not worried about his teams facing the weather, but more of what will happen if lightning is in the area.
“We’re held by sunlight,” Sorrells said. “If we do get pushed back, when are we going to run? Are we going to be pushed back until Sunday? There are all the travel questions. If you get off on the schedule any, there are some classifications that won’t be running on Saturday.”

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