1. Cody Barger, NH 16:16.78
2. Luis Gonzalez, NH 16:27.06
3. Josh Pendley, WH 16:38.65
4. Brandon Lawson, NH 16:43.22
5. Jimmy Gault, WH 17:03.46
6. David Whitson, GHS 17:12.21
1. Jessie Dotson, WC 19:25.74
2. Victoria Rogers, NH 19:40.83
3. Ansley Lawson, NH 19:58.65
4. Ryan Sharry, WH 20:06.57
5. Savannah Smith, WH 20:20.25
6. Sara Hayes, GHS 20:27.57
HELEN — North Hall’s Cody Barger made it seem effortless.
Barger was spared from having to sprint to the finish and hold off a close competitor at the Region 8-AAA championships for cross country Thursday at Unicoi State Park. In fact, as Barger approached the straight away to the finish, he was the only boys competitor in sight as he won by 11 seconds over the nearest competitor, which happened to be his own teammate, Luis Gonzalez. Barger, a senior, finished with a time of 16:16.78 for his 10th victory in 11 races this season.
North Hall placed three in the top four, including Gonzalez in second (16:27), and Brandon Lawson in fourth (16:43).
“This was the best we’ve run as a team this season by far,” Barger said. “Everyone on our team had a (personal record) today, except for me.”
Finishing third was West Hall’s Josh Pendley with a time of 16:38.
“Cody ran like we expected he would today,” Gonzalez said. “He came out in front of Josh today and paced himself well.”
The Spartans ran well enough to earn second as a team with Jimmy Gault taking fifth (17:03) and Brandon Nguyen finishing seventh (17:16). Oconee County and Gainesville will join North Hall and West Hall at the state meet Nov. 6 at Carrollton High.
The girls race was equally dominated by a single individual. White County junior Jessie Dotson breezed to the finish line with a new personal record of 19:25.74, which is 18 seconds better than her prior best.
Dotson benefited from a pack that thinned out relatively quickly in a course known best for its peaks and valleys. She said that trail conditions were relatively accommodating, despite heavy rains in the area Wednesday.
She said she was especially pleased to come out on top, especially with her track record of not running her best at Unicoi. Earlier this year, a fall at the end cost her the win. Last year, Dotson missed the region championships at Gainesville State College due to a stress fracture.
“This was amazing winning the region title,” Dotson said. “This is something that I’ve wanted since the seventh grade.”
Even though Dotson won the individual battle, the North Hall girls won the team bragging rights heading into state. For North Hall, Victoria Rogers finished second (19:40) and Ansley Lawson placed third (19:58).
West Hall wasn’t far behind with Ryan Sharry placing fourth overall (20:06) and Savannah Smith in fifth place (20:20) as part of a second-place team finish.
Kelsey Neukem placed eighth overall with a time of 20:46 and led Chestatee to a third-place finish. Freshman Maggie Wilson was 10th overall for the Lady War Eagles (20:59).
Bethany Walshe led Oconee County to a fourth-place finish with a time of 21:18 and was 11th overall.
Traveling to state for Gainesville’s girls is freshman Sara Hayes, who met the cut off for an at-large spot with a sixth-place finish and overall time of 20:27.
The Class AAA boys will run at the state meet at 11:30 a.m., followed by the girls at noon.