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South, West Forsyth girls finish in top five at state cross country meet
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West Forsyth finished fourth in Class AAAAAA at the GHSA Cross Country Championship on Saturday. - photo by Brian Paglia

GHSA State Cross Country Championships - Class AAAAAA girls

Team Results

1. Northview – 102 points (1+8+12+31+50), 20:05 average
2. South Forsyth – 114 points (4+6+22+27+55), 20:17 average
3. Milton – 134 points (17+21+23+36+37), 20:39 average
4. West Forsyth – 167 points (3+35+42+43+44), 20:43 average
5. Harrison – 206 points (13+25+52+56+60), 21:02 average

South Forsyth
4. Savannah Carnahan – 19:12.59
6. Kaylee Dupont – 19:27.14
24. Milicent Bergey – 20:30.07
30. Emma Maisel – 20:49.60
59. Savannah Ratcliff – 21:27.08

West Forsyth
3. Liz Galarza – 19:07.13
38. Dara Niemi – 21:02.32
46. Kaitlyn Griffith – 21:08.07
47. Julie Ericson – 21:09.46
48. Stephanie Shea – 21:10.75

CARROLLTON – The noise started just past the finish line at the GHSA Cross Country Championships. Runners were funneled through tables with race officials collecting time chips into a single-file line shaded by giant oak trees. It led to a sidewalk in the heart of the Carrollton High School campus taken over by West Forsyth coaches, parents, runners and students.

They shouted, “WHY NOT US? WHY NOT US?” the season-long theme for the Wolverines program, but it fit well for the county’s performance as a whole Saturday with two girls teams finishing in the top four and three individuals finishing in the top six in Class AAAAAA.

“That says a lot,” West head coach Clayton Tillery said.

South Forsyth girls finished second overall with 114 points behind state champion Northview (102). The Lady War Eagles were bolstered by their dynamic duo of junior Savannah Carnahan (19:12.59) and freshman Kaylee Dupont (19:27.14) who finished fourth and sixth, respectively, and aided by strong runs from Milicent Bergey (24th, 20:30.07), Emma Maisel (30th, 20:49.50) and Savannah Ratcliff (21:27.08).

Altogether, it helped South match the best team-finish at the state meet in school history.

“Realistically, that was about as good as we could expect,” South head coach Van Munn said. “Northview’s really good, and we hung with them pretty well.”

West matched its own best team-finish at state thanks in large part to Liz Galarza.

The sophomore watched at the start of the race as Carnahan and Dupont kept pace with the lead pack consisting of several expected state title contenders. Northview’s Lindsey Billings was there, the Region 6-AAAAAA champion just the week before. So was Walton’s Avery Bussjager, the 2013 state champion. Marietta’s Mary Jeanne Assinzo was there too.

Galarza followed not far behind at the front of the next pack. Early on, she kept her eyes on the ground to make sure of her footing, she said. Soon, though, she looked up. At the top of the finishing hill, she saw Billings, Bussjager, Carnahan and Dupont separated out seemingly in command of their positions.

“I was kind of worried,” Galarza said. “They were really far ahead. I just thought, ‘Think about how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling good, go for it.’ Then I did feel good, and I went for it.”

By the second loop, Galarza had passed Dupont. Eventually, she passed Carnahan, who was hampered by illness that had set in during the week leading up to the race.

Galarza wound up finishing third in 19:07.13, the best finish by a Forsyth County girl at state since Lambert’s Allie Schaich in 2009.

“It just felt good to be able to pull through at the end,” Galarza said.

“You look at her all year, she looked like she could be a top five runner,” Tillery said.

Behind Galarza, the Lady Wolverines benefitted from a pack mentality with four runners finishing between 38th and 48th in Dara Niemi (38th, 21:02.32), Kaitlyn Griffith (46th, 21:08.07), Julie Ericson (47th, 21:09.46) and Stephanie Shea (48th, 21:10).

When they reached the podium later, the noise returned. They brought homemade signs and Roger, the team’s manikin mascot with a West Forsyth logo on his cheek.

The noise was near constant, for there was plenty for Forsyth to cheer about.

“That just says we’ve got a lot of strong, young talent,” Munn said. “The problem is that everybody coming back next year, and it’s going to be just as difficult, or more difficult, next year to maintain that. That’s the challenge year to year.”