By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
After a regular season most programs would consider pretty good, including a second-place finish at the Region 8AAAAAA championship meet last weekend, the Brookwood boys weren’t considered among the favorites to win the school’s 12th state championship Saturday in Carrollton.
But after the race, which team drove away from the campus course at Carrollton High School with the Class AAAAAA trophy in a black van with Queen’s “We Are the Champions” playing on its sound system? Brookwood, of course.
The Broncos had four of its seven runners finish in the top 35, including a second- and fifth- place finish, respectively, by senior Josh Ingalls and junior Miles Yapp, en route to defeating Gwinnett County rival Peachtree Ridge for the top spot on the podium, though Ridge senior Kevin Mills won the individual title in a meet-best time of 16:03. Neighborhood rival Parkview had edged Brookwood for the region title the previous week.
“We tried [to win] at region, but it just didn’t go our way,” said Brookwood head coach Ben Dehnke. “We wanted to come back today and execute our race, and the guys did that today.”
Dehnke has structured the team’s training regimen with a focus on having everyone peak at the end of the season. That was evident on Saturday as the five runners whose finishes were counted for scoring purposes, all placed in the top 50.
“Our racing tactics, our training, it’s all designed for us to run well on the right day, this day,” said Dehnke, who talked to the team this week about ignoring the predictions of their demise.
“I told them that we can’t worry about what Joe Blow from Atlanta is predicting we will do, and people saying this and saying that,” Dehnke said. “We can’t control any of that. We just needed to worry about the things that we can control.”
In the girls’ Class AAAAAA race, Peachtree Ridge is the only school that traditionally has set up its team tent on the grounds of the Carrollton baseball complex, where the trophies and medals are awarded. The boys’ team made the short walk to the top spot on the podium in 2008. On Saturday, it was the girls’ turn.
The Lions placed five runners in the top 40, with senior Addison Lippitt leading the way finishing fifth, as Peachtree Ridge won its first girls’ cross country team title in the school’s short 10-year history.
Unlike the Brookwood boys, the Lion girls were dominant all season, including a win at the Region 7AAAAAA championship last weekend. But Peachtree Ridge head coach Ron Clanton said he was not worried about his team being over confident going into the state meet.
“[The location of the team tent] is something we’ve always done so our parents will know where to find us. We’re nowhere near that arrogant,” Clanton said. “Our kids are taught to be humble, and they knew it wasn’t about what they had done all season. It was about what they were going to do once they got here today.”
Along with Lippitt, the Lions were paced by seniors Caroline Williams (25th), Laurel Wilson (32nd) and Haley Spears (37th), while promising freshman Meghan Peel placed 22nd.
“It’s great to see for this group of girls who’ve been together four years,” Clanton said of the seniors. “They’ve been working toward this. We’ve been on the podium before but this was the first time we were on the top spot.”
Clanton said the win was a testament to the team’s work ethic.
“We start on Memorial Day and we go six days a week,” Clanton said. “To get to where these girls have gotten took a lot of sacrifice and commitment, and I’m just so proud of all of them.”
Walton junior Avery Bussjager won the individual crown in a time of 19:04.
Flowery Branch’s boys won the program’s fourth title overall and its second in three seasons, as senior Nicholas Ashmead led the way with an eighth place finish, while junior Miguel Martinez placed 10th and senior Brian Young placed 11th. Kell junion Logan Poteet was the overall champion in a time of 16:13.
Northview won the girls title for the first time in school history, behind the individual championship performance of Lindsay Billings who won in a time of 19:12.
The Marist boys and girls swept team championships for the second straight season. It was the eighth title for the boys, their fifth out of the last six seasons. The War Eagles were led by individual champion senior Daniel Navarro and senior Michael Thurston, who placed third.
The girls picked up their 15th team championship and their fourth in a row in dominating fashion, as all five scoring runners placed in the top 10, led by individual champion Morgan Ilse, a junior, freshman Anna Renou (second), freshman Kendall Nelson (fourth), senior Anne Marie Ilse (seventh) and junior Caitie Faust (eighth).
Senior Austin Sprague continued his brilliant career in cross country and in track, as he led St. Pius to its fourth team title in a row by winning the individual championship in a time of 16:08. The Lions also got strong performances from juniors Nik Calia and Stephen Martinez, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, and seniors Joseph Ferrugia and Andrew Anastasiades, who placed seventh and ninth, respectively.
Blessed Trinity won the school’s third team championship, its first since 2006, as all five scoring runners placed in the top 20. The group was led by seniors Anna Gandolfo (third) and Bailey Willett (fifth). White County sophomore Jenna Gearing won the individual crown in a time of 19:29.
Westminster made its annual statement as perhaps the state’s top program as the Wildcats won their 22nd team championship, their seventh in a row and their 15th out of the past 16 seasons. All seven Westminster runners finished in the top 20, and the top five scoring runners finished in the top 16. Leading the charge was senior Jordan Flowers, who won the individual title in 17:22.
The Wesleyan girls won their second team title in as many seasons and the program’s fifth overall as senior Caroline Reed placed third overall. Union County sophomore Emma Garrison won the individual title in a time of 19:10.
UPDATE: After a review of the order in which runners finished, the GHSA has declared a tie for the championship between Wesleyan and Westminster.
Class A (Public)
Georgia Military won its second consecutive public school championship as all five scoring runners placed in the top 20, led by senior Will Archer (second) and junior Tom Drew (fourth). Gordon Lee senior Dylan Smith won the individual championship in a time of 17:39.
Towns County won its second straight public school girl’s championship in a tie breaker over Trion. Towns County’s sixth best runner, freshman Kenzi Jenkins placed 22nd, well ahead of Trion’s sixth best finisher, which gave Towns County the team the title. Towns County was led by seniors Ashley Vardeman and Caitlin Sheffield, who placed second and third, respectively. Freshman Sarah Meadows of Gordon Lee won the individual title in a time of 22:46.
Class A (Private)
The Landmark Christian boys won the team’s seventh title overall and its first since 2004, as senior Spencer Geerlings led the way with an 11th place finish. Galloway junior Reilly Friedman won the individual championship in 16:29.
The Pace girls won the team title for the first time since 1993, when the Knights won six championships in a row. Freshman Julia Rose led the way with a 16th place finish in 21:14. Landmark Christian sophomore Kathryn Foreman won the individual title in 18:42.
Class AAAAAA boys
1. Kevin Mills, Peachtree Ridge (16:03)
2. Josh Ingalls, Brookwood (16:19)
3. Bryan Kamau, Shiloh (16:25)
4. Eric Westog, Mill Creek (16:27)
5. Miles Yapp, Brookwood (16:30)
2. Peachtree Ridge
4. Collins Hill
Class AAAAAA girls
1. Avery Bussjager, Walton (19:04)
2. Mary Jeanne Assinzo, Marietta (19:13)
3. Lauren Brennan, Brookwood (19:16)
4. Lauran Hovis, Mill Creek (19:22)
5. Addison Lippitt, Peachtree Ridge (19:27)
1. Peachtree Ridge
5. West Forsyth
Class AAAAA boys
1. Logan Poteet, Kell (16:13)
2. Davis Stockwell, Lakeside-DeKalb (16:26)
3. Justin Weegar, Evans (16:42)
4. Corey Jones, Richmond Hill (16:53.09)
5. John Raville, Whitewater (16:53.63)
1. Flowery Branch
Class AAAAA girls
1. Lindsey Billings, Northview (19:12)
2. Alex Cameron, Dunwoody (19:29)
3. Ashley Kehoe, Pope (19:52)
4. Caroline Nelson, Northgate (19:59)
5. Alyssa Hooker, Lakeside-Evans (20:05)
5. Starr’s Mill
Class AAAA boys
1. Daniel Navarro, Marist (16:13)
2. Hakeem Mustafa, Shaw (16:27)
3. Michael Thurston, Marist (16:39)
4. Andrew Coggins, LaGrange (16:47)
5. Sean Parker, Pickens (16:57)
Class AAAA girls
1. Morgan Ilse, Marist (18:53)
2. Anna Renou, Marist (19:45)
3. Abby Booth, Perry (19:58)
4. Kendall Nelson, Marist (20:07)
5. Anna Leigh Nix, Mary Persons (20:17)
4. Eagle’s Landing
Class AAA boys
1. Austin Sprague, St. Pius (16:08)
2. Matt Munns, Blessed Trinity (16:39)
3. Quitin Miles, North Hall (16:44)
4. Nik Calia, St. Pius (16:45.35)
5. Stephen Martinez, St. Pius (16:45.69)
1. St. Pius
2. North Hall
3. Woodward Academy
4. Blessed Trinity
5. Oconee County
Class AAA girls
1. Jenna Gearing, White County (19:29)
2. Audrey Honiotes, Hart County (19:49)
3. Anna Gandolfo, Blessed Trinity (20:04)
4. Margaret Crawford, St. Pius (20:15)
5. Bailey Willett, Blessed Trinity (20:23)
1. Blessed Trinity
2. St. Pius
3. White County
4. North Oconee
5. Woodward Academy
Class AA boys
1. Jordan Flowers, Westminster (17:22)
2. Marcus Guthro, Riverside Military (17:33)
3. Graham Huff, Westminster (17:34.35)
4. Sam Geha, Benedictine (17:34.92)
5. Henry Collins, Wesleyan (17:44.97)
3. Bleckley County
Class AA girls
1. Emma Garrison, Union County (19:10)
2. Serena Tripodi, Lovett (19:47)
3. Caroline Reed, Wesleyan (19:55)
4. Jordan Zimmerman, Wesleyan (20:00)
5. Charlotte Folinus, Westminster (20:17)
4. Bleckley County
5. St. Vincent’s Academy
Class A Public boys
1. Dylan Smith, Gordon Lee (17:39)
2. Will Archer, Georgia Military College (17:48)
3. Mark Brannen, Jenkins County (17:49)
4. Tom Drew, Georgia Military College (18:54)
5. Nahum Mendoza, Commerce (19:04)
1. Georgia Military College
2. Jenkins County
5. Montgomery County
Class A Public girls
1. Sarah Meadows, Gordon Lee (22:46)
2. Ansley Vardeman, Towns County (23:21)
3. Caitlin Sheffield, Towns County (23:51)
4. Britain Rogers, Hawkinsville (24:23)
5. Brooke Landry, Trion (24:25)
1. Towns County
Class A Private boys
1. Reilly Friedman, Galloway (16:29)
2. Robby Keough, Whitefield Academy (17:01)
3. Shane Sullivan, Mt. Pisgah Christian (17:10)
4. Joey Carr, Mt. Paran Christian (17:16)
5. Adam Hearn, Athens Academy (17:17)
1. Landmark Christian
3. Athens Christian
4. Holy Innocents’
5. Lakeview Academy
Class A Private girls
1. Kathryn Foreman, Landmark Christian (18:42)
2. Tayler Tuttle, Providence Christian (18:51)
3. Helen Williams, Atlanta International (19:15)
4. Nicole Fegans, Landmark Christian (19:39)
5. Emma Grace Hurley, Fellowship Christian (19:42)
1. Pace Academy
2. Providence Christian
4. First Presbyterian
5. Hebron Christian