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North Hall boys, Johnson girls claim Hall County cross country championships
Johnson's Suarez, Chestatee's Grater earn individual victories
North Hall's Quintin Miles runs ahead of eventual winner Junior Suarez of Johnson during the Hall County Championship on Wednesday at Riverside Military Academy. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Hall County championships
Boys team results

1. North Hall 30
2. Johnson 63
3. Gainesville 64
4. Chestatee 97
5. West Hall 120
6. Lakeview Academy 148
7. Riverside Military 202
8. East Hall 208

Girls team results

1. Johnson 36
2. Chestatee 45
3. North Hall 47
4. Lakeview Academy 97
5. West Hall 136

Girls Individual results

1. Lindsey Grater Chestatee 19:42
2. Breann Fair Gainesville 21:05
3. Evelin Avitia Johnson 21:08
4. Abbie Cliche Chestatee 21:13
5. Hannah Rogers Johnson 21:24
6. Mattie Bohanan North Hall 21:45
7. Mary McGarry North Hall 21:46
8. Molly Hayes Johnson 21:54
9. Arisbel Saucedo Johnson 22:07
10. Merrie Barnett Chestatee 22:47

Boys results

1. Junior Suarez Johnson 16:16
2. Quintin Miles North Hall 16:26
3. Bryce Schuebert North Hall 16:32
4. Corson Teasley North Hall 16:36
5. Lewis Brooks Lakeview Academy 16:39
6. Juan Ortega Gainesville 16:43
7. Tommy Johnston North Hall 16:53
8. Isaac Hernandez Johnson 16:57
9. Jack Carnes Chestatee 17:09
10. Diego Rangel Gainesville 17:31

Johnson’s Junior Suarez has a powerful final kick for such a small-framed runner.

Standing only 5-foot-2 and weighing just a shade more than 90 pounds, Suarez gradually stretched his lead over North Hall’s Quintin Miles on the homestretch of the track at Riverside Military’s Maginnis Field of the Hall County Championship with a blistering time of 16 minutes, 17 seconds to claim the overall title Wednesday.

It’s been a memorable season for Suarez. He’s now claimed five individual victories in races this cross country season.

North Hall’s boys claimed top team honors with 30 points, ahead of second-place Johnson (63 points) and third-place Gainesville (64). Miles finished second overall with a time of 16:27.

In the girls’ race, Chestatee freshman Lindsey Grater cruised to victory with a wire-to-wire win, running the five-kilometer course in 19:50 for her fourth individual victory of the season.

The Johnson girls claimed the team title. The Lady Knights placed four runners in the top eight overall, including Evelin Avitia (third, 21:08), Hannah Rogers (fifth, 21:24) and Molly Hayes (eighth, 21:54).

When Suarez, a junior, entered the final stretch of the boys race at the Riverside football stadium with 400 yards to go and about a 20-yard lead, he steadily increased his margin of victory to about 100 yards by the time he circled the track to the finish line.

“It’s really an honor to win this race, it’s one I’ve been trying to earn since I was in the eighth grade,” said Suarez, who has a personal best time this season of 15:53 at Unicoi State Park in Helen.

Suarez utilizes an extended stride, which Knights coach Lauren Carter said has been a point of emphasis in his extensive training, to make up for a final kick to the finish line he was lacking earlier in his running career.

“(Suarez) doesn’t look like he’s tired when he’s finished with a race but he works really, really hard preparing to run,” said Carter.

When Suarez is winning a race, it’s both eyes forward. He says he can gauge the proximity to his nearest competitor by the reaction of the crowd.

Such was the case at the county championship. Wrapping back around the Maginnis Field parking lot for the final 1/4-mile, his lead was rather small before his final sprint to the finish.

“I knew he was really close to me when we got back up to the track,” said Suarez.

Grater’s time at Riverside, a course she said was especially challenging with two figure-eight type loops of the campus’ athletic grounds of the Gainesville private school’s campus, came after running a personal best of 19:20 at the Mountain Invitational.

Even though Grater had never previously run the course at Riverside, she had it mentally planned out before beginning on a relatively warm and muggy afternoon.

“Lindsey runs very smart and she knows how to pace herself,” Chestatee coach Meghann Pruett said. “She’s a very smart runner and so humble about it.”

Carter said the most infectious thing about her blazing-fast runner is his warm personality. Always smiling, Suarez makes his varying styles of six miles of training each day a pleasure.

“He’s got the kind of personality that puts us all in a good mood,” said Carter. “I know if I’m having a bad day, he can make me feel better.”

Flowery Branch was the only Hall County program not taking part in the meet.

During the girls’ race, two runners were transported by ambulance to the hospital for unspecified conditions. North Hall’s Makayla Ellis, who was running second behind Grater, needed medical assistance on the final lap at the football stadium, while Chestatee’s Bertha Alejo-Cruz was also sent to the hospital for medical evaluation, as confirmed by Pruett.

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