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High school cross country: Gainesville's John Jessup has set many new school records in 2022. Here's his next goal this season.
Gainesville's John Jessup - photo by Bill Murphy

John Jessup is intentional with his preparation in cross country. 

His success has been a direct result of intense training with lots of miles and high personal expectations. 

After already resetting all the program records for the Gainesville High boys, he’s still mindful about every aspect of his life and how it impacts his training. 

There’s no resting for this accomplished distance runner for the Red Elephants, who wants to run at a Division-I school, starting in 2023. 

Next up, Jessup, who set a new school record of 15 minutes, 43 seconds on Sept. 16 at the Warpath Invitational, hopes to claim the Hall County Championship on Saturday on the trail at the North Hall Community Center. 

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

Even though Jessup has the fastest five-kilometer time in the county this season, he’s taking nothing for granted, going against several other runners who have also gone under 17 minutes in 2022. 

Historically, the top runners in Hall County have gone on to fruitful college runners careers, one of the most recent being North Hall graduate Andrew Jones, who is now a sophomore runner at the University of Virginia. 

This season, Jessup’s personal best is 45 seconds better than his personal record in 2021. 

Gainesville’s standout runner in cross country and track said a lot of credit for his improvement goes back to time spent this past summer doing high-altitude training in Colorado.

“It would mean a lot for me to be able to win Hall County,” said Jessup, who earlier this season set the school record on the state championship course at Carrollton. 

On the girls side, North Hall’s Clodagh O’Bryant has been equally dominant as the sophomore goes for her second county championship. 

Her personal best of 18:48 this season is the fastest by 21 seconds on the Lady Trojans program, which is ranked No. 4 in the all-classification poll. 

North Hall’s girls will be the team to beat with four runners (O’Bryant, Jessie Dubnik, Harleigh Smith and Abi Moore) all going under 20 minutes each at least once this season. 

They’ve also got a home-course edge with a five-kilometer route that has ample flat stretches where runners can make their move, but also has parts with a steady incline in the woods that will make running personal-best times difficult. 

Jessup said his goal at the county championship is to go under 16:20. 

After Jessup, it’s neck and neck between Chestatee’s Aaron Retana (16:32 PR) and North Hall’s Bryant Young (16:33 PR) to put some pressure on the frontrunner from Gainesville. 

Even though this particular course is not Jessup’s favorite, he said it’s great for fellowship and everyone to have friends and family out for support in the hometown championship. 

“For us, we run a lot of races a long way from home, so this is great for everyone to see why we’ve been putting so much hard work into running,” said Jessup, who has been in communication with Georgia, Georgia Tech, Furman and Appalachian State about running next year. 

Giving the North Hall boys a chance at the team title is depth provided by Elijah Jernigan (17:11 PR) and Jaycob Wagner (17:23). 

Meanwhile, the back-to-back state champion Chestatee boys are also a strong contender, with Noah Peters (17:03) and Eli Chaffin (17:36) giving valuable efforts. 

On the girls’ side, Flowery Branch senior Bella Brick will also be near the front of the pack, along with Cherokee Bluff’s Adison Myers.

Earlier this month, Brick took third at the North Hall Invitational (20:05), while Myers finished sixth at the same event (20:29).

Meanwhile the Gainesville girls have seen strong improvement, its coach Richard Corbett said, with the performances by Samantha Hartman and Jaretzy Silva. 

Only weeks from now, runners will take part in their respective region championship meets, which will determine who all gets a spot at state in Carrollton. 

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