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Who's the fastest in Hall County? Nine boys, girls cross country programs gathering Saturday to determine bragging rights
Cross country 2021
The boys race starts Sept. 9, 2021 at the North Hall Invitational in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

When the weather cools off, the cross country competition gets a little more intense. 

That’s certainly the case with the Hall County championships, which takes place Saturday morning at the North Hall Community Center. 

The boys championship race begins at 8:30 a.m., followed by the girls championship start at 9 a.m. 

A combined junior varsity boys and girls division is scheduled to get going at 9:45 am.

It’s the same relatively-flat course that hosted the North Hall Invitational on Sept. 9. 

This time, with early morning temperatures expected in the 50s, runners will get an appreciated reprieve from the heat and humidity. 

“Everybody is used to running in really hot meets,” North Hall coach Sam Borg said. “We get excited about October. The weather will make it more comfortable (to run). We should see much faster times.”

Gainesville’s Ashley Thompson, a senior, is the defending champion. 

Since last fall, she’s also earn the 3200-meter track and field state title in Class 7A in 2021. 

This season, there will be nine boys programs and nine girls teams running in the Hall County championship. 

A good start will also determine not only the individuals success, but the teams place on the podium.

“What’s great about cross country, it is a team sport,” Borg said. “If your No. 1 kid is doing what they are supposed to do, it helps pace the whole team.”

Borg has interchangeable No. 1 runners, both with bright futures ahead: freshmen Clodagh O’Bryant and Harleigh Smith, who have established themselves as the unofficial leaders of the Lady Trojans team. 

The duo finished in the top two, respectively, during the North Hall Invitational. O’Bryant won with a time of 19 minutes, 22 seconds, while Smith ran a 19:32. 

Their effort and a strong top 10 finish by Makayla Jones helped North Hall secure the team title then, and expect to perform equally well at the county championship. 

Also running and likely to finish near the front are Flowery Branch’s Bella Brick and Cherokee Bluff’s Adison Myers.

North Hall’s opportunity to repeat will not be easy.

“This meet is about pride,” Borg said. “You want to win region and make deep it in the state. This is not our most important meet, but it is bragging rights around town. It is still fun.”

Fun is the exact word that Garrett and Gavin Grater are focused on.

The Chestatee High twins, who are decorated distance runners, approach their final opportunity to participate in the Hall County extremely relaxed. They are looking to the race against their county peers.

“I’m hoping to have a good time,” Garrett Grater said. 

The War Eagles won the county championship team title last year, behind the top three finish of Luke Gaddis and Jonathan Torres Cruz. 

Chestatee, the defending Class 4A state champions, is considered the overall team favorite to repeat. 

During the North Hall Invitational, the War Eagles had three runners finish in the four. 

Junior Aaron Retana was second (16:44.80) while Gavin Grater took third place (16:49) and Garrett Grater was fourth overall (16:56). 

Add sophomore Javier Rebollar’s seventh place finish helped Chestatee take up four spots in the top 10.

“This is a competition between Hall County schools,” Gavin Grater said. “It gives us an idea on where we are at individually.”

However, the Grater twins spoke of the importance of getting out to a good start at the most critical part of the course.

“The two-mile mark in any race is important,” Garrett said. “Having the lead sets the pace. The first 1 1/2 miles is where the work comes in.”

Chestatee’s runners will not only have to contend with the course. 

They will be met with some formidable competitors. 

Gainesville’s John Jessup and Cherokee Bluff’s Austin Click will also make a run at the individual title.

However, the one thing the Grater twins did not want to talk about was the end of the race. It will mark the last time they will participate in the Hall County championship.

“It’s going to be sad,” Garrett said. “It will be sad knowing I won’t be running this again. I don’t want to think about it.”

Gavin added, “I haven’t been thinking about it that much. I’ve been telling myself to just make it the best.”

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