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Runners ready for state meet in Carrollton
1105 CROSSCOUNTRY
White County's Jenna Gearing runs during her victory in the Region 8-AAAA cross country championship last Thursday at Unicoi State Park in Helen. Gearing is going for a third state title on Saturday in Carrollton. - photo by Jared Putnam

Area teams heading to state cross country

Class AAAAA boys

Flowery Branch

Gainesville

Class AAAAA girls

Flowery Branch

Class AAAA boys

North Hall

Johnson

Chestatee

Class AAAA girls

White County

Buford

Johnson

Class AAA boys

Banks County

West Hall

Dawson County

Lumpkin County

Jackson County

Jefferson

Class AAA girls

Dawson County

Banks County

Lumpkin County

Jefferson

Class AA boys

Union County

Riverside Military Academy

Class AA girls

Union County

Class A boys-public

Towns County

Commerce

Class A girls-public

Towns County

Commerce


State cross country meet race times

7:45 a.m. Boys AAAAA

8:25 a.m. Girls AAAAA

9:10 a.m. Boys AAA

9:50 a.m. Girls AAA

10:35 a.m. Boys AAAA

11:15 a.m. Girls AAAA

Noon Boys AA

12:40 p.m. Girls AA

1:25 p.m. Boys AAAAAA

2:05 p.m. Girls AAAAAA

2:50 p.m. Boys A (private)

3:30 p.m. Girls A (private)

4:15 p.m. Boys A (public)

4:55 p.m. Girls A (public)

The work has been put in. Now it’s time to run.

That’s the mindset for a wide range of competitors from this area ahead of Saturday’s high school cross country state championships in Carrollton.

One team that knows what it takes at this level is the Flowery Branch boys, the defending Class AAAAA state champion and a winner of four state titles in the previous six years (2008, 2009, 2011, 2013). Coach Jimmy Sorrells has a simple message for his runners this week.

“The hay is in the barn now,” Sorrells said. “It’s just time to make sure we don’t do anything to jeopardize our performance at the state.”

Everything has built to this race for the Falcons, whose Jake Shewbert — Region 8-AAAAA champion — and Miguel Martinez are the only two returnees from last season’s group. Flowery Branch cruised to the region championship last Saturday in Conyers.

Sorrells built this season’s practice schedule around the 7:45 a.m. start time for Saturday’s state championship race. He joked that after the team’s 6 a.m. practices, the year’s final race could even seem a little late.

White County junior Jenna Gearing has won a pair of Class AAA state titles and will be matched up against two-time defending Class AAAA champion Morgan Ilse of Marist, among others, in the AAAA girls race. Gearing earned her third region title, this one in 8-AAAA, at Unicoi State Park last Thursday.

Gearing said it should be her toughest race yet. She does enjoy the hills in Carrollton, an element that makes a runner’s strategy important.

“You have to be smart on the course,” Gearing said. “You can’t just go out and run, or you’ll feel it on the third mile.”

The White County girls have pushed through injuries this season and won Region 8-AAAA by a point against powerful North Oconee last week. Rachel Gearing, Jenna’s sister, is the second-fastest right now on a team which Jenna Gearing said is peaking at the right time. The Lady Warriors were third in Class AAA a season ago.

North Hall’s boys have no shortage of motivation ahead of their Class AAAA state race. In 2013, the Trojans had the second-highest average time (16:58.14) among all classifications but finished second behind St. Pius X in Class AAA.

North Hall is also coming off a second place to North Oconee at the Region 8-AAAA race at Unicoi State Park in a team race decided by five points.

“We don’t like losing,” Rogers said. “We’re a little bit more motivated to run well.”

Region champion Quintin Miles paces the Trojans’ hopes and will look to track down a state championship after being third in Class AAA in 2013. Rogers said Marist’s Frank Pittman is the individual favorite, with Johnson’s Junior Suarez, North Oconee’s Tyler Jones and a couple of St. Pius X runners making the race for the first six spots tight.

Rogers said his team has struggled with consistency but will look to put things together Saturday like it did in last year’s state meet. He sees the team title coming down to St. Pius, North Oconee, Woodward Academy and his own squad.

“We’ve just got to run our race, and hopefully our race will be good enough,” Rogers said. “It’s a tough course. It’s very hilly. That plays to our strength.”

Union County junior Emma Garrison has won a pair of Class AA state championships but has battled shin splints this season. After a couple of weeks of rest, Garrison finished second in Region 8-AA last week.

Garrison’s teammate, first-year runner Julia Lindsey, won the Region 8-AA championship in 22:03.6, a second ahead of Garrison. Lindsey, a drum major who has only been able to run four races this year because of her band obligations, is still finding her stride in running.

“I’m not sure if she knows how fast she can actually go,” Union County coach Jackie Hughes said. “I told her to put herself up there with the top runners and see what happens.”

Hughes said Garrison is probably 90-95 percent healthy compared to where she was a year ago at this time. But Hughes knows not to count out either of her top two runners because of their fierce competitive nature.

The coach said Lindsey, a senior, has helped give Garrison a strong challenge as she works back to health, while Garrison has been able to share her experience of running up front.

Union County’s boys, led by Lance Underwood, are also coming off a Region 8-AA title.

Both Towns County teams won their region championships. The Towns County girls will be going for a third consecutive Class A-public state championship in Carrollton, with region champ Hannah Whitehead leading the way.

But even with the success of the past two years, Towns County coach Jeannie Ledford knows nothing will come easy, with region foe Commerce also set to be a strong challenger at state.

“You never get relaxed,” Ledford said.

Flowery Branch’s girls also won a Region 8-AAAAA title and have state meet experience with returnees Cassie Ward and Ashley Grant.

Flowery Branch, Johnson, Dawson County, Banks County, Lumpkin County, Jefferson, Union County, Towns County and Commerce are all sending both their boys and girls teams to state.

Among the runners who qualified for state individually are Chestatee’s Lindsey Grater, North Hall’s Makayla Ellis, East Hall’s Enrique Ochoa, Jackson County’s Monica Jimenez and Lakeview Academy’s Lewis Brooks.

Regional events