OAKWOOD — Cody Barger set a new course record of 15 minutes, 54.66 seconds to win the West Hall Invitational on Tuesday at West Hall High.
Barger, who beat West Hall’s Josh Pendley by five seconds, tied his personal best set three races ago at the Berry Invitational and propelled the Trojans to first place in the team portion of the meet.
“We’re North Hall so we’re going to come out here and have a good showing,” Barger said after the race. “This is a true program, we train all the runners the same.”
That equality helped the Trojans defeat runner-up West Hall, which was led by Pendley’s new school record of 16:00.63.
“The gap’s closing on us,” Pendley said of his personal competition with Barger. “I have to keep training hard and I think I’ll be able to catch him.”
Catching the Trojans is also the goal of West Hall coach Sam Borg, who said, “every race we’ve gotten closer to North Hall.”
Along with Barger, North Hall placed four runners in the top 20 including Luis Gonzalez’s third-place finish and Brandon Lawson’s fourth-place finish. Chance Martin and Reese Walker finished 19th and 20th respectively for the Trojans.
West Hall placed four runners in the top 20 with Jimmy Gault finishing fifth, Keegan Kyle finishing 11th and Brandon Nguyen placing 18th. Austin Dyer, who placed 24th, was the final score counted for the Spartans.
Rounding out the boys’ top 10 were Creekview, Habersham Central, Chestatee, North Forsyth, Gainesville, Buford, GAC and East Jackson. Gainesville’s David Whitson (seventh) and Habersham Central’s Brian Elder (ninth) finished in the top 10 individually.
North Hall’s boys completed the sweep for the school, as the Lady Trojans literally ran away with the girls championship.
Led by Victoria Rogers’ second-place finish and Ansley Lawson’s third-place finish, the Lady Trojans defeated second-place Greater Atlanta Christian by 45 points.
“We were all a little shaky at the beginning of the season,” Lawson said. “It’s good to see all the hard work is paying off and it’s good to come into this race and win it regardless of how hot it was.”
The Lady Trojans also used their depth to outpace the competition, as all five runners placed in the top 20. Kirsten Niedfeldt placed 11th, Sarah Harper finished 15th and Laura Mancin placed 16th for North Hall.
“We race with no gaps,” Lawson said. “We have a good, close top seven.”
The youngest of those top seven stole the show.
Running on the course for the first time, the sophomore Rogers was at the front of the pack for the majority of the race, and although she ran a personal best time of 20 minutes, she knows there was no way she was going to catch GAC’s Lauren Kester, who placed first.
“I just barely passed Ansley, so I didn’t think about passing her,” Rogers said.
Kester led GAC to a second place finish, while West Hall’s girls placed third. The Lady Spartans were led by Savannah Smith’s fifth-place finish and Taylor Long’s seventh-place finish. Ryan Sharry, Ansley Dobbs and Elizabeth Gale also scored for West Hall.
Rounding out the top 10 were Chestatee, Creekview, Buford, East Jackson, North Forsyth, Habersham Central and Gainesville. Buford’s Maya Dillard (fourth) and Gainesville’s Sara Hayes (eighth) placed in the top 10 individually.
This is the fifth year of the West Hall Invitational and Borg said the 22 teams that competed Tuesday was the largest field in the meet’s history.