Forsyth County is an annual presence at the state cross country meet.
This year is no different.
Several county teams expect to contend for a podium spot Saturday in Carrollton at the Class 7A state championship meet, headlined by Denmark’s top-ranked boys team.
“I think everybody’s excited about the meet. I think we’re going to do just fine,” Denmark head coach Ty Brown said. “The boys are excited – they think they’ve got a good shot at winning a state title. It’s not going to be easy, because there’s lots of good competition out there.”
The Danes captured the Region 6-7A championship two weeks ago behind Ethan Ashley’s first-place time of 15:56. In all, Denmark placed Chinmay Dongari (5th), Hayden Hare (7th), Tavian Anderson (8th) and Xavier Anderson (11th) inside the top 11.
Ashley will see even tougher competition at the state meet, against the likes of Marietta’s Kamar Miller and Harrison’s Sully Shleton.
“We know Kamari is the No. 1 guy in the state right now,” Brown said. “Beating him might not be a possibility, but placing in the top three is definitely a possibility. We know Sully Shelton is going to be up in the pack, and then you’ve got Miguel Schlicht at Norcross who’s going to be up there probably as well. There’s another kid from Milton (Hayden Marshall) who will be up in that pack too.
“Ethan’s ready. He’s just a competitor. He loves to compete, he rises to the occasion and he doesn’t falter when the pressure mounts. He really performs well under pressure, so I know this weekend he’ll be just fine.”
Lambert finished second at last year’s meet, but the Longhorns will be without top runner Cooper Bocko, who sustained a stress fracture in his foot earlier this season.
“Obviously, it hurts not having Cooper, but it’s kind of the next-man-up mentality,” Lambert head coach James Tigue said. “We have a pretty deep team, so that’s what we’re going to rely on.”
Senior Colin Chapman (16:29) placed sixth at the region meet, while freshman Reid Latimer (16:38) turned in an impressive ninth-place place finish, recording the fastest time by a freshman.
The Longhorns finished third at the region meet behind a South Forsyth team led by Nate Verska (16:03), who placed second just a few ticks behind Ashley.
Verska is enjoying a productive junior season for the War Eagles, running a 16:00 and finishing fourth overall at the Coach Wood Invitational last month before posting a second-place finish at the region meet (16:03).
West Forsyth, anchored by Tyler Doty and Trent Bell, also hopes to contend following a fourth-place showing at the region meet.
Doty (16:13) placed third overall, while Bell (16:24) finished fourth to give the Wolverines a pair of runners in the top four. Sophomore Aidan Portelli will also provide some depth for West.
Lambert might be down a runner on the boys side, but Tigue has high expectations for the Longhorns’ girls team.
“This is by far the deepest team we’ve had,” he said. “It’s probably the closest team we’ve had as far as running as a team and really kind of embracing the team aspect of it. It’s been really, really fun coaching them this year. They work hard, they run well together, so I’m excited to see what they can do.”
A pair of seniors in Charlotte Lawson and Emily Chapman lead Lambert, but the Longhorns’ trio of sophomores – Bella Cammarota, Amanda Feeney, Isabelle Gaharan -- round out the top five and suggests a bright future for Lambert.
Still, South is the team to beat from Forsyth County after a pair of young runners nearly stole the show at the region meet.
Sophomore Carmel Yonas (18:32) finished second behind Gainesville’s Ashley Thompson, while Isabel Yonas (19:23) finished fourth for the War Eagles and helped South to a region title.
Isabel Yonas’ mark was just shy of Denmark’s Morgan Grace Sheffield, whose 19:14 and third-place finish marked the fastest freshman time.
“She’s been around for a while. She’s run in middle school states, so she’s been in the pressure element,” Brown said. “It’s just I think the new venue for her. Being at the high school level, she knows it’s going to be competitive. Her main focus has been just learning the course and trying to figure out what to expect there.”
West has five upperclassmen that the Wolverines hope can carve out a spot on the podium.
Seniors Brooke Simon (7th), Ava Krogman (11th), Rachel Murray (12th) helped West to a third-place region finish, in addition to juniors Sophia Slavov (13th) and Audrey Anderson (28th).