The difference between the West Hall and Flowery Branch boys cross country teams has been razor thin this season. The Spartans, Class AAA’s No. 4 in the state according to gatfxc.com, have picked up two wins this season against the fifth-ranked Falcons.
While West Hall has won both races, it’s the margin of victory that makes this matchup so compelling. The Spartans finished second (110 points) at the recent Mountain Invitational at Unicoi State Park. The Falcons were right over their shoulder, just one point behind.
The Spartans also picked up a win by three points over the Falcons earlier this season at the University of Georgia’s Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course.
These two highly competitive squads get another chance to go head-to-head this afternoon at the Hall County championships at Chestatee Middle School’s course.
"It’s going to be fun to watch with two good teams going against each other," West Hall coach Sam Borg said. "I’m hoping we’re able to pick up the win."
West Hall is led by Andy Martin, who placed fourth at Hall County last season. He was the only runner in the top five last season not part of North Hall’s championship team.
According to Borg, the matchup between West Hall and Flowery Branch is compelling with the two strong "packs" of runners each team brings to the trail.
The Spartans are led by Luis Cervantes, Zack Loggins, Keegan Kyle and Josh Pendley.
Flowery Branch is just as strong with Daniel Martinez, David Farist, Justin Souther, J.T. Orr, Kenny Slavik, Jeffrey Velez and Maurice Riden leading its pack.
"I hope it’s a close race," Flowery Branch coach Jimmy Sorrells said. "It shows we’re all competing well."
With points allocated to the top five runners, it’s important for the entire team to run well.
Borg looks at this race as more of a competition for points rather than a battle for running a personal best time.
"The course at Chestatee is probably the toughest we’ll run all year," Borg said. "It’s got a really tough hill that you have to run twice, so we’re not going to see any really fast times."
Individually, North Hall’s top two runners Nick Long and Nolan Clark are expected to compete for the first-place finish.
Flowery Branch’s girls look to repeat as Hall County champions. The Lady Falcons are young but experienced with last year’s 10th place state finisher Eileen Devico and 15th place finisher Ali Welborn, both sophomores leading the way. Devico finished third and Welborn finished fourth at Hall County last year.
Flowery Branch will also count on Katie Peifer, Jessica Elinburg, Brenda Navarro and Stephanie Martinez to have a good race. Kiara Woods, a sophomore, will not run tomorrow after dislocating her shoulder on Tuesday.
"We want to go out and have a strong race, and whoever wins, wins," Sorrells said. "Our biggest focus for our team is to focus on our attitude as a team."
North Hall sophomore Patrice Sweet won the individual title last year at Hall County and looks to make a repeat performance.
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