The North Hall High girls cross country team worked hard to earn the state’s top ranking in Class AAA, and after the first coaches poll was released this week, they’re set on keeping it in house the remainder of the season.
So far, the Lady Trojans are off to a good start.
In a field of 19 teams Tuesday, North Hall’s girls took the top two sports overall to claim the team victory with 33 points at the War Eagle Invitational at Chestatee Middle School. West Hall was second (67) and Chestatee placed third (69).
“To be the No. 1 team in the state means the world to me,” said North Hall’s Ansley Lawson, the meet winner with a time of 20 minutes, 19 seconds.
North Hall’s boys also won with 49 total points. West Hall (78) finished second and Chestatee was third (106).
Even with a 34-second cushion at the finish line, Lawson felt a good push the first part of the race from West Hall’s Savannah Smith (fourth, 21:18). With a lead she approximated at 20-30 yards most of the race, Lawson made the final stride in the last 1/2 mile for the first victory in her career.
Already this season, Lawson finished third at Northeast Georgia in Athens (20:00) and the Berry Invitational.
Lawson joked that she felt third place was again going to be her destiny.
“I’m pretty psyched to win,” Lawson said.
The Lady Trojans also received second-place points from sophomore Victoria Rogers (20:53), who jumped into her final position on the second and final lap of the race course through the woods and onto the front lawn of the school’s campus.
Rounding out the top six for the girls were Chestatee’s Kelsey Neukum in third (21:16), Smith (21:18), Gainesville freshman Sara Hayes (21:34) and Duluth’s Casey Brown (21:38).
On the boys side, for the third time in as many races this season North Hall’s Cody Barger took first (16:05). It goes with wins already this season at the Northeast Georgia Invitational and Berry Invitational.
Even though the link could be drawn between his pace and that of North Hall graduate Ty McCormack from last season, Barger, a senior, insists there is no comparison.
“The times that Ty was running last season are untouchable,” Barger said.
This season, Barger is now fully healthy after sustained pain in his shins last year during track season. During cross country, he tapers down to running 50- to 60-miles each week from his offseason schedule of 70 miles.
At the War Eagle, Barger didn’t overtake West Hall’s and second-place finisher Josh Pendley (16:15) until the final lap.
Rounding out the top six were Pickens’ Justin Weaver in third (16:50), North Hall’s Luis Gonzalez (17:39), Gainesville’s David Whitson (17:41) and his Red Elephants’ teammate Aurelio Montanio (17:48).
Gainesville placed fourth (138), North Forsyth earned fifth (150) and Providence Christian was sixth (155).