There’s a chance Forsyth County could produce three individual cross country state champions this weekend.
Denmark senior Ethan Ashley, South Forsyth junior Carmel Yonas and East Forsyth junior Alex Arrambide each won a region championship in the past two weeks and will contend for a state championship in their respective races.
Ashley, who has posted the fastest time in the state this season at 15:01, will help Denmark’s region champion boys team compete for a state title as well.
The two weeks of rest between the region and state meets is something that Denmark’s head coach Andrew Hudson is grateful to have.
“I’m glad we had an extra week,” Hudson said. “Sometimes you have a week before state, sometimes you have two. I think our region has been pretty good about allowing two weeks, because that give you a chance to come off the emotions of a championship meet. Especially when you run as well as we did across the board. It’s nice to have a chance to sort of regroup and reflect. We had some fairly key injuries, and this will give us a little extra time to get everybody healthy and do what we need to do to get ready for Saturday.”
Denmark, which won its third consecutive region championship, moved past No. 5 West Forsyth and No. 6 Lambert to become the fourth-ranked team in Class 7A.
The Danes finished fourth at last year’s state meet and hope to improve their standing this time around. Marietta won the 2020 state championship, while Harrison finished second and Norcross placed third. However, Marietta graduated first-place finisher Kamari Miller, Harrison graduated its top three runners, and Norcross' top five runners graduated.
“State is very unpredictable because it’s so competitive,” Hudson said. “Unlike team sports, you can’t really focus on one team. You have to find a way to focus on your individual performances in the midst of lining up against all the best teams in the state at one time. It’s hard to know how everyone is going to react emotionally and controlling those emotions and trying to focus on the objectives and what each runner’s trying to accomplish. We have some fairly high expectations, but because the meet’s so competitive, we have a fairly wide range of where we could end up.”
Ashley will be a big part of Denmark’s success, as he has been all season. He added to his list of wins this season by claiming the region championship with a time of 15:42.
Xavier Anderson, Tavian Anderson, Ethan Bridge and Ben Sydell will provide critical depth for the Danes.
“I think Ethan’s feeling really good,” Hudson said. “I think Ethan’s ridiculously strong, competitive. He’s a machine right now. He’s just incredibly fit. I’ve been coaching for a long time, and I’ve never had a boy like this. It’s been pretty exciting. When you get someone to work with who’s this elite, it challenges you as a coach. You’ve got to come up with ways to push him and try not to go overboard. It’s easy to get caught up when you’re working with someone like that. You’ve got to try to save the best efforts for the Saturdays.”
Denmark, West Forsyth, Lambert and Gainesville will also represent Region 6-7A on the boys side.
West Forsyth's Trent Bell has pieced together an impressive senior season and finished third overall at the region meet, while Lambert sophomore Reid Latimer finished fourth individually at the region meet.
For the 7A girls, Lambert is coming off a team region championship, and Yonas claimed the individual title for South Forsyth with a time of 18:31. While it was her first region title, Yonas will have a chance to repeat as state champion this weekend in Carrollton, after winning last year with a time of 18:49.
Lambert is led by a string of upperclassmen, including seniors Caroline Harris and Morgan Latimer, as well as juniors Bella Cammarota, Amanda Feeney, Isabelle Gaharan and Courtney Tigue.
South Forsyth, Denmark and West Forsyth will also compete Saturday in the state meet. Lambert and South are ranked fourth and fifth in Class 7A, respectively.
In Class 3A, East Forsyth is sending two boys to the state meet, including the Region 7-3A champion Alex Arrambide. Arrambide ran a 16:28 to win his third meet of the season and capture a region title.
“I am so proud of Alex and think it’s great to see all of his hard work paying off for him,” East head coach Amber Beck said. “I am hoping that his success, and winning region this year, will be setting the foundation of many successful years for the program here at East. I am looking ahead to next year, and hopeful with his leadership, that we will have both teams join him at state.”
William Knight, who finished fifth at the region meet with a time of 17:37, will join Arrambide in the state meet in Carrollton on Friday.
“[They] both have been training hard for this race all season,” Beck said. “They are continuing to focus on the things that got them to the State meet, while reminding themselves to run their race.”