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Trojans run away with county titles
Girls varsity cross country teams make their way through the parking lot of Riverside Military Academy during Thursday afternoon’s Hall County Championships.

There was little surprise at Thursday’s Hall County Cross Country Championships, as North Hall High’s boys and girls team each cruised to a first-place finish at Riverside Military.

And it was no surprise that North Hall’s Cody Barger won the county championship for the boys, and the Lady Trojans’ Victoria Rogers won it for the girls. In fact, the only surprise of the meet had to deal with the absence of former county champion, Flowery Branch.

The Falcons are racing in a meet Saturday at the course that will hold the region meet, so the team chose to skip the county competition in hopes of being full strength on a course they need to know.

“I wish they would have been here, but I don’t blame (Falcons coach Jimmy Sorrells),” North Hall assistant coach Art DaCosta said. “This is the only chance we could have run against them.”

The absence of Flowery Branch didn’t take away from another outstanding performance by Barger, who easily won the title with a time of 15 minutes, 56.42 seconds. The win was Barger’s sixth in six races, and although he’s getting used to holding up the first-place trophy, he doesn’t exactly like being the guy to beat.

“It’s not a good feeling,” said Barger, who beat West Hall’s Josh Pendley by almost 30 seconds. “It’s much more fun being the dark horse than be the guy who everyone’s chasing.”

The main guy chasing him is Pendley, who likes the fact Barger is the one leading the pack.

“It pushes me to get better,” said Pendley, who paced the Spartans to a second-place finish. “Without him, I wouldn’t be as good.”

The same can be said for the North Hall boys team, which got scoring results from third-place finisher Brandon Lawson, fourth-place finisher Luis Gonzalez, seventh-place finisher Reese Walker and Jared Lee, who finished ninth.

West Hall had three runners place in the top 10 including Pendley, Jimmy Gault (sixth) and Keegan Kyle (eighth). Brandon Nguyen and Junior Iniguez also scored for West Hall.

“I’m very pleased,” Da Costa said. “We showed what we could do.”

So did the Lady Trojans, who also had all six scorers finish in the top 10, including a first and second place finish by Rogers and Ansley Lawson. Rogers and Lawson were separated by only three seconds. Also scoring for North Hall were Kirsten Niedfeldt (fifth place), Sarah Harper (eighth place) and Laura Mancin (ninth place).

“I’ve been working at building the girls program for three years,” Da Costa said. “This year, they see how good they can be.”

West Hall also finished second in the girls team meet with Savannah Smith placing third, Taylor Long finishing seventh, Ryan Sharry finishing 11th, Ansley Dobbs placing 12th and Elizabeth Gale finishing 14th.

Only five runners not wearing a North Hall or West Hall jersey finished in the top 10 in both the boys and girls competition, with Gainesville’s David Whitson finishing fifth and Chestatee’s Edgar Guerreo placing 10th. In the girls meet, Gainesville’s Sara Hayes finished fourth, Chestatee’s Kelsey Neukum placed sixth and her teammate Cara Martin placed 10th.

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