CARROLLTON — The race-day conditions were far from ideal for the Lambert boys and South Forsyth girls at Friday's state cross country championship meet in Carrollton.
It was a particularly warm day, for one, without much cloud cover and a midday start time that exacerbated the warmth. By cross country standards, it was hot.
Neither the Longhorns nor the War Eagles were completely healthy, either. Lambert had to go without its No. 3 runner, Tanner Baker, who sustained a stress fracture in his leg, and No. 2 runner Lee Keil ran with the same injury. South's Caroline Patterson (foot) and Madelynne Cadeau (leg) also had to work through injuries.
Both teams finished second in the Class 7A championship on Friday, and while those results could be seen as a letdown for two squads that won titles last year and returned most of their runners in 2017, there was little, if any, disappointment to be found.
"It wasn't what we envisioned at the beginning of the year," Lambert head coach James Tigue said. "But we're happy with the result today."
The result of the boys title race was close to a foregone conclusion. Milton had smoked state competition all season, and while Lambert harbored some small hope of chaos, it knew the Eagles had a clear advantage. The title went to the north Fulton school by a wide margin, with Sam Bowers and Nicholas Yanek finishing first and second individually. The rest of the top five was a tight jumble that favored Forsyth County schools, though.
Fox ran near the head of the pack for most of the race and wound up finishing fifth. Keil was close behind, in ninth.
"I was pretty happy," Fox said of his performance. "I would have like to have gotten third, but I'm not disappointed."
Then there was the South Forsyth boys team, which epitomized the team element of the sport, not placing a runner higher than 31st but bunching their top five up with a separation of just 17 seconds to take third overall, an improvement of five places from 2016.
"Milton kind of had it in the bag with first, but we knew those two through five-six spots were going to be really tough," War Eagles head coach Nick Wansley said. "It was going to be just who came out and had a really good day ... we came out and had a great day."
The top two teams in the girls team, Marietta and South, easily outstripped the rest of the competition, with 71 points separating the War Eagles and third-place Milton. The Blue Devils place five runners in the top 20 to South's four, though, and bested the War Eagles 62 to 84. Senior Kaylee DuPont was South's top individual finisher, coming in sixth overall.
"We had a little bit of an injury plague the last two weeks, but they just got through it together," Wansley said of the girls team. "They didn't give up on each other. They just pushed and pushed and pushed with each other, and I'm more proud of them than I've ever been, just at how much they fought today. It was a well-earned second place that they got with how hard they worked."
Forsyth Central's Calan Gizelbach was the county's third top-10 finisher in the boys race, coming in seventh, and Eli Smith finished 26th to help boost the Bulldogs to a 10th-place finish in that race. West Forsyth, led by Nick Lyon in 35th and Jeremy Ericson in 36th, finished 12th in the boys standings. West girls, led by Mallory Luskus in 14th, finished sixth in the, and Lambert, led by Caroline Gaharan in 28th, was seventh.
Full boys and girls results: http://www.ptgrouponline.com/Live/2017/XC/GHSA/