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Chestatee boys relish claiming back-to-back state titles in cross country
Chestatee cross country
Chestatee boys cross country team on the podium after winning the Class 4A state championship on Nov. 6 in Carrollton. Photo courtesy Garrett Grater

Looking at the state championship trophy over the weekend provided a cascade of memories for Chestatee High senior Garrett Grater. 

Mostly positive emotions, Grater was able to recollect on all the hard work the War Eagles' boys cross country program poured into repeating at Class 4A state champions on Saturday in Carrollton. 

After Grater, who took second individually with a time of 16 minutes, 41 seconds, completed his final meet and the program returned to Gainesville, he took the shiny trophy back to his family’s home in Murrayville to admire for a few days. 

“I was in awe of it when I held the trophy,” Garrett said.

Garrett was the top runner for the War Eagles at state, but his twin brother Gavin was also an integral part of edging Marist in the team standings, crossing the finish line fourth overall (16:53).

By claiming the championship, Chestatee becomes the first boys cross country program from Hall County to go back to back at state since Flowery Branch (2008-2009).

“I couldn’t be any more proud of this team,” Garrett said. “Winning state shows that all the hard work, running so many miles was worth it.”

“Most people don’t get to experience back to back state championships,” Gavin said. “We did what we had to do to earn it.”

While both of the Graters will be graduating in 2022, the War Eagles’ cross country program is set up for continued success. 

Next year, Aaron Retana (seventh place, 17:00) and Javier Rebollar (eighth place, 17:09) are expected back to lead the program as it continues to compete in Class 4A under the proposed Georgia High School Association’s next two-year reclassification.

Garrett returned the trophy to its proper home at Chestatee High on Monday, but had ample time to think about a high school cross country program that exceeded even his wildest expectations. 

Noah Peters is also a rising star in the War Eagles program. He was 17th at state (17:48).

Becoming an elite runner at the five-kilometer distance requires dedication and making sacrifices in your personal life to succeed. 

Both of the Graters put in north of 1,000 miles every year, a big chunk of those on the hilly terrain of their neighborhood off Thompson Bridge Road.

Both of the Graters attribute the success of its program to community coach Wes Wessley, who is a jack of all trades with chipping in to make sure training and the logistics run smoothly. 

“Having coach Wes with the program makes all the difference,” Gavin said. 

In fact, Wessley was the driving factor in drawing Garrett out to the cross country program in middle school. 

With the older sister of the Graters already in high school running at Chestatee about five years ago, Garrett remembers Wessley’s voice when the young athlete was running a starter race. 

“Coach Wes was screaming out, ‘that’s my rising star!’” Garrett said. 

How true that statement was. 

Both of the Graters were top-10 runners for both state championship squads with the War Eagles. 

While Garrett is exploring options to run in college, Gavin said he is probably finished with running cross country competitively. 

Still, their high school careers are not finished. 

Both will turn their attention to track and field where they will both be contending for state championships in the distance events. 

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