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White County's Jenna Gearing secures fourth cross country region title
North Hall, Johnson boys and girls, Chestatee boys qualify for state
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Kayla Krauth nears the finish line during the Region 8-AAAA cross country championship meet at Unicoi State Park in Helen on Thursday. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Girls Team State Qualifiers
1. North Oconee
2. White County
3. North Hall
4. Johnson

Girls Individual Top 10
1. Jenna Gearing          White County      18:39
2. Jaelen Alexander      White County      19:18
3. Mackenzie Morse      North Oconee      19:42
4. Sarah Davis             Buford                 19:47
5. Gabby Huff-Streiter  North Oconee      19:53
6. Deanna Lewis          Stephens County  20:11
7. Abbigail Cliche         Chestatee              20:14
8. Lauryn Davidson      Buford                  20:19
9. Megan Dew             Chestatee             20:24
10. Sinead O’Bryant    White County        20:28

Boys Team State Qualifiers
1. North Oconee
2. North Hall
3. Johnson
4. Chestatee

Boys Individual Top 10
1. Thomas Moore          North Oconee       15:45
2. Junior Suarez           Johnson               15:58
3. Tommy Johnston      North Hall            16:01
4. Corson Teasley         North Hall            16:16
5. Issac Hernandez       Johnson              16:17
6. Andone Mendoza      Buford                 16:26
7. Harper Sigler            North Oconee      16:27
8. Anthony Potts          North Oconee      16:41
9. Devon Crow             North Hall           16:46
10. Ivan Martin           Chestatee            16:51

As 18:39 shone in bright red across the LED timeboard, White County’s Jenna Gearing crossed the finish line to capture her fourth cross country region championship Thursday at Unicoi State Park.

The title was her second consecutive Region 8-AAAA championship. She won two Region 7-AAA titles before that.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Gearing said. “It’s a goal I’ve had since my freshman year. Coach (Sam) Borg put it in my head, so I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to do that. That’d be pretty fun.’

“Now, accomplishing that, it’s something I can’t take for granted because a lot of girls would like to accomplish that,” she continued. “Being on this course for the last time, it was great to just finish that out.”

Gearing and freshman Jaelen Alexander, who finished second at 19 minutes, 18 seconds, helped White County place second in the girls’ competition.

North Oconee took the top team spot, while North Hall and Johnson placed third and fourth respectively.

Each of the four will represent the region at the state meet Nov. 7 in Carrollton.

For the boys, North Oconee’s Thomas Moore took the top spot with a time of 15:46, leading his team to the No. 1 spot as well.

North Hall took second place, just one point behind North Oconee, with the third and fourth-place runners Tommy Johnston and Corson Teasley.

Johnson’s Junior Suarez took second place and Isaac Hernandez finished fifth, guiding the Knights to third place in the meet.

The final state qualifier for the boys was Chestatee, whose top runner was Ivan Martin in 10th place.

As the schools prepare for the state meet, the four-time region champion hopes to take her place atop the podium for the third time.

“I’m hoping I can win, but it’s going to be tough having Marist and the other competition there,” Gearing said. “I know if I just trust my training and run how I can run, it’ll be a good possibility.”

Borg said coaching a four-time champion has been “humbling.”

“She’s an amazing girl,” Borg said. “Today was a celebration of four years of her winning. Unicoi is a special place for her. It’s emotional to see her cross the finish line for the last time.”

Distancing herself by 39 seconds from Alexander in second place, Gearing said she puts it in her head that she has a competitor running right behind her at all times to make sure she keeps pushing on.

Knowing that Alexander was behind her the whole time was like having a security net for the senior.

“Knowing that I had our second girl running behind me, I knew she’d be there if I ended up running bad. I knew she’d win it,” Gearing said.

Coach Borg said it this season has been cool to see Gearing “pass the torch” to Alexander.

“(Alexander’s) got a great shot at the state podium next week,” Borg said. “I think we’ll look back 10 years from now and think, ‘Did Jaelen really run on the same team as Jenna?’ The future is bright.”

Achieving the feat of a four-time region champion is something Borg hasn’t heard of in the area, but Gearing thinks after she graduates that Alexander can pull off a three-time region streak.

“I know she has the motivation and the mindset to, but there are going to be some good runners next year,” Gearing said. “If she keeps training the way she is, she’ll definitely be able to get it.”

After the state meet wraps up next weekend, the senior will have another tough road ahead - which college will she run for?

“She still hasn’t made her mind up yet,” Borg said. “She’s got a lot of schools after and she’s got a tough decision to make.”

“I’m looking at a few schools right now,” Gearing said. “Maybe UGA, Lipscomb is a big one. There are schools all around, but I’m definitely going to run because that’s my life.”

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