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North Hall cross country sweeps Region 8-AAA championships
Two Trojan boys runners break course record
North Hall's Brandon Lawson, left, and Luis Gonzalez take the lead in the boys Region 8-AAA cross country meet at Unicoi State Park Thursday afternoon. The two finished first and second respectively.

Race results:

Region 8-AAA championships

Girls team results

1. North Hall (51)

2. West Hall (57)

3. White County (64)

4. Chestatee (114)

5. Oconee County (129)

6. Gainesville (190)

7. Lanier (191)

8. Walnut Grove (230)

9. Johnson (249)

10. Lumpkin County (279)

11. Stephens County (280)

Girls individual finishers

1. Taylor Long, West Hall: 19:25.39

2. Victoria Rogers, North Hall: 19:37.83

3. Jessie Dotson, White County: 19:49.88

4. Sara Hayes, Gainesville: 19:58.75

5. Bethany Walshe, Oconee County: 20:01.03

6. Madison Van Dyke, North Hall: 20:09.74

7. Savannah Smith, West Hall: 20:17.74

8. Miranda Huff, Walnut Grove: 20:25.49

9. Sarah Beth English, Chestatee: 20:30.87

10. Ryan Sharry, West Hall: 20:43.56

Boys team results

1. North Hall (15)

2. Oconee County (103)

3. White County (107)

4. West Hall (131)

5. Chestatee (133)

6. Stephens County (141)

7. Gainesville (166)

8. Lanier (205)

9. Johnson (254)

10. Monroe Area (272)

11. Franklin County (308)

12. Walnut Grove (313)

13. Lumpkin County (359)

Boys individual finishers

1. Brandon Lawson, North Hall: 15:40.77

2. Luis Gonzalez, North Hall: 16:00.29

3. Witt Nix, North Hall: 16:43.39

4. Bryce Schuebert, North Hall: 16:51.88

5. Tucker LoCicero, North Hall: 16:57.71

6. Levi Fangmann, White County: 17:00.77

7. Wake Roberds, Oconee County: 17:10.37

8. Jared Lee, North Hall: 17:13.06

9. Brandon Nguyen, West Hall: 17:15.12

10. Junior Iniguez, West Hall: 17:23.49

HELEN — North Hall senior Brandon Lawson’s goal at the state meet this season is not just to try and win an individual state title, but to win as a team.

“It’s been my dream since middle school to win an individual state title,” Lawson said. “But one thing that Ty (McCormack) and Cody (Barger) didn’t do was win a team title.

“That’s something I’d also like to do.”

Thursday afternoon at Unicoi State Park the Trojans boys cross country team looked the part of a state title contender, finishing 1-2-3-4-5 to sweep the Region 8-AAA title.

“We expected to win the boys,” said North Hall cross country coach Drew Rogers. “But not 1-2-3-4-5.”

Lawson led the way with a time of 15:40.77, shattering the course record of 16:11 set by former Trojans runner Nolan Clark in 2008.

“I don’t think I could have run it any faster, any better,” Lawson said. “That’s the best race of my life.”

Lawson’s teammate, senior Luis Gonzalez, also came in under the record at 16:00.29.

Junior Witt Nix (16:43.39), freshman Bryce Schuebert (16:51.88) and junior Tucker LoCicero (16:57.71) rounded out the top five for North Hall, which finished second at state last season, led by 2011 graduate Barger’s top individual finish.

Lawson finished 18th overall in Carrollton, but along with Gonzalez, who finished 14th, the two seniors are looking to beat out St. Pius X and Woodward Academy for the top spot on Nov. 5.

“If we run well, we’ll be one of the top three in state,” Rogers said. “It will just depend on which place it will be.”

North Hall finished a close second to Woodward at the Last Chance Invitational last weekend despite missing Gonzalez.

With all of the key pieces together Thursday, the team proved what it is capable of.

“This is something that we’ve all been waiting for,” Schuebert said. “I think we all ran a pretty good race today.”

To drive that point home; North Hall’s sixth runner, senior Jared Lee, also finished in the top 10 at eighth overall, behind only Levi Fangmann (17:00.77) from White County in sixth place and Wake Roberds (17:10.37) from Oconee County in seventh.

Oconee County finished second as a team and will join North Hall at state, along with White County and West Hall (led by ninth place finisher Brandon Nguyen with a time of 17:15.12) as the No. 3 and No. 4 teams, respectively.

NORTH HALL GIRLS FIRST: West Hall junior Taylor Long finished first in a time of 19:25.39, but the Lady Trojans, behind second place finisher Victoria Rogers (19:37.83), slipped by their Hall County rivals by just six points to take the 8-AAA title.

“With West Hall and White County, we knew it was going to be a dogfight,” coach Rogers said.

Now all three teams, along with fourth place finisher Chestatee (led by ninth place finisher Sarah Beth English at 20:30.87), will have a chance to compete again at the state meet in Carrollton.

Senior Jessie Dotson led White County in a time of 19:49.88 to finish third.

Gainesville’s Sara Hayes (19:58.75) and Oconee County’s Bethany Walshe (20:01.03) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, and will advance to state as individual runners.

North Hall sophomore Madison Van Dyke rounded out the top six in a time of 20:09.74.

Long, who ran her best time of the year on Thursday and finished 25th at state last season, is ready to get back to Carrollton, which she admits is a harder course than Unicoi State Park.

“It feels awesome to go again,” Long said. “I’m trying to get at least a 19:45 at state, and if not a new personal record.”

Personal records were not uncommon on the Unicoi State Park course. In addition to Long, six of the seven North Hall girls running set personal records, and the seventh set a season-best.

It’s all part of the plan for the North Hall cross country team, which is peaking at the right time.

“We peak for this,” Rogers said. “Everything we do before this is really just a scrimmage.”

The system is working well for North Hall and Rogers. In addition to winning both varsity races, the Trojans and Lady Trojans junior varsity teams also came away champions.

“We train hard,” Rogers said. “We take a week off after state and then it’s right back to work.

“We’re one of a few teams where the runners train nearly all year long.”

Regional events