CARROLLTON-- Lambert and South Forsyth had individuals finish at the podium, while the Lady War Eagles and Forsyth Central boys had top-four team finishes at the GHSA cross country state championships held at Carrollton High School on Saturday.
South's girls finished second behind Mill Creek in the Class AAAAAA race, but still managed to edge rival Northview, which finished third. Head coach Vann Munn had high expectations, but wasn't surprised that Mill Creek won.
“It's great. It's bittersweet because we want to be number one. We were second last year, and we were second last year. We got closer, but there's still a lot to be done, but it was a great day,” Munn said.
After the AAAAA races, the course was cut down to eliminate a hill that became too slippery for runners to ascend safely.
While many runners complained of the muddy conditions that hampered the field all day, South's Savannah Carnahan was happy to be covered in sludge when she left the course. A senior, she took every moment in on way to placing second behind Northview's Lindsay Billings. Carnahan's time of 18:52.18 was 42 seconds behind Billings.
“This is the first time I've not been dead sick going into state,” Carnahan, a senior heading to Furman University next year, said. “For me, it was just like getting a mud run in. I had a ton of fun. But coming in second, there's noone I'd rather beat me than Billings. She's such a great person and great runner. I'll try to beat her when I'm in college.”
Kaylee DuPont finished at 19:17.39 for third place.
No Central boys runner finished in the top-10, but Will Hasse, Wes Bacastow, Calan Gizelbach and Max Warner finished 11th, 18th, 25th and 41st, respectively, to frontload the field and help the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the Class AAAAA grouping, trailing only Clarkston.
“We've had runners up and down all year, but today we really all came together at the same time,” Central coach Shannon Hays said. “And with our girls, we have a lot of freshman and you hoped they would be up to the task, and they all did well.”
Lambert senior Jonathan Schwind placed fifth in the field with a time of 16:31.40. His finish was the same as last season, but in his final year he admitted he put the pressure on himself to finish third or below.
“I gave it everything I had today,” Schwind said. “I really wanted to finish lower. All of my friends were telling me 'great job' but I set the bar pretty high. The course was rough, the mud would get stuck in my spikes and prevent me from getting traction. I'm sure that was everyone's issue, but I was able to get in front of a pack and be in position to finish the race as strong as I could.”
Lambert head coach James Tigue was proud of the Longhorns, who finished fifth to just miss a podium finish. Tyler Fox (16:15.88) and Lee Keil (17:15.37) finished 17th and 30th, respectively, to help the Longhorns. Marietta won the AAAAAA title on the boys side.
“The team, we are relatively young with three sophomores and all three ran very well today, so I was happy,” Tigue said. “We kind of stepped up, especially Tyler and Lee.”
Schwind finished two runners behind West Forsyth's John Green, but Green was disqualified for wearing a headband. Green said it was the same headband he's worn “for every race in my life,” but that he won't let the technicality ruin the moment.
“I still know what happened. I'll remember the race. It's just a piece of metal you know,” Green said. “I'm mad, yeah, a little. I wore it last year at state. But, whatever. I had a great day.”
Green's headband has “Isaiah 40:30” written across the front. The Bible verse states, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength.”
West head coach Clayton Tillery said he challenged GHSA officials, claiming there were no rules in the handbook prohibiting a headband.
“The rule simply doesn't exist,” Tillery said.
GHSA officials said Green was disqualified for an “equipment violation” and would not offer further comment. Green, whose headband holds back quite a head of hair, was the only runner in the field of 226 to not post an official result. He placed eighth in state last year.
West's girls just missed a podium finish as well, finishing in fift. The Lady Wolverines were led by Julie Ericson (20:10.52) at 19 and Reagan Poteet (20:24.28) at 25.
“We are really proud of the three up front. Julie, who was a number one as a freshman, led us today. As a unit, we hoped to be on the podium, but we're very proud of them,” assistant coach Scott Griffith said.