With temperatures hitting the 70s in the west Georgia area, it did nothing but intensify the annual pilgrimage to Carrollton for the state’s best distance runners to show out, with the Class AA-AAAAAA boys and girls races rolling throughout the morning and into the late afternoon hours before all was said and done.
Leading the way locally were the Carrollton and Bremen high school girls squads, as both cracked the top 10 in their respective classifications. The Lady Trojans finished 10th in Class AAAA and the Lady Blue Devils took the No. 10 spot in Class AA.
Individually, Heard County’s Orlando Burgos just missed out on a boys Class AA state championship, turning in a third-place effort of 17 minutes and 48.66 seconds.
The Carrollton girls, who improved from 19th to 10th this year, finished with 320 team points, paced by junior Emily Adams in 44th (22:32.41). Freshman Zavannah Brown was right on her trail in 49th (22:44.71).
Carrollton coach Mike Mason said it was a great showing from his team, which loses just one senior — Nicole Wilson.
“I am so pleased with the effort. Every girl ran their fastest time here — Zavannah Brown tied her fastest time — but just very, very pleased,” Mason said. “I’m excited for those girls and we’ve got just one senior on the crew, so we’ve got all those girls coming back. I’m very excited about their performance this year.”
Likewise, Lady Blue Devil coach Tammy Thompson said her girls challenged themselves in their first-ever state competition since moving up to Class AA. Needless to say, they were happy with the results.
“It was huge — a lot of screaming. They were very excited. They realized the challenge going in and I was very proud of them,” Thompson said. “I had a couple that were working through injuries, and just watching the tears and the struggle to make it to the finish line was amazing.”
Ashley Camp led Bremen with a 21st-place effort (22:41.38), while Mary Everett also had a strong showing in 36th (23:23.16).
Central coach Montrell McClendon brought a mixed bunch to the Class AAA scene on Saturday — the boys qualified their entire team and Anna Leah Deese wrapped up her tremendous prep career in style on the state’s biggest stage.
Deese, who qualified as an individual, finished in 32nd place (22:04.59) in her senior swan song, something that proved to be a little bittersweet for the four-time state qualifier.
“She was kind of nervous [Saturday], but I just told her, ‘You’ve been here before. It’s your last race. You ain’t got nothing to lose,’” McClendon said. “I’m proud of her. She’s helped the girl’s team make it to state the last three years, so it was just imperative that she made it to state in her senior year. She’s been one of the best cross country athletes that I’ve had come through.”
The Lions finished in 18th place with 557 points, led by Scott Anderson in 97th (19:53.57). McClendon returns his entire top five for next year.
“They didn’t run their best, but I had a couple p.r. We didn’t run exactly what we wanted to run, but it’s OK. I’m glad they’re here. The goal is to keep them here and every year we’ll keep competing and getting better at state. There’s a lot of really good teams at state. It’s an honor just to be here running with them,” McClendon said.
Villa Rica junior Abbigayle Mathis was a newcomer at the state level, but the junior didn’t let it show, finishing in 47th in girls Class AAAAA race behind a personal-record for the course (21:54.74).
Mathis was the first VR runner to qualify for state under Cat coach Landon Odom since his first year in charge of the program back when it was in Class AAA.
“She had a real strong race. I’m proud of her,” Odom said. “She deserves every bit of success she’s had. She’s worked really hard this year. Hopefully, the girls will see the results and train hard and come back with her next year.”
Another newcomer — this one being a team — proved to be the Bowdon girls in Class AA. The Red Devilettes shook off some jitters to finish in 25th place on Saturday, led by Molly Harper’s 108th-place showing (26:56.17).
“The two freshmen, they were pretty nervous. Our senior, she wasn’t as nervous as they were, but I think a little jitters were definitely there for them,” noted first-year Bowdon coach Jeremiah Yates. “I think moving forward, especially for the freshmen, I think it’s given them a little bit of something to look forward to and to try hard for now that they’ve seen a little bit of success.”
As for the meet itself, Carrollton boys track and field coach Craig Musselwhite was back running the show as Meet Director and was accompanied by several volunteers to make the 2012 championships a success once again.
“It was a great day. Coach Musselwhite, being the Meet Director, has got this down. So I was very pleased. Some great times and the weather was awesome. Just an overall wonderful day in Carrollton, Georgia,” Mason said.