Getting its first test in the Class AAAAA waters of the GHSA Cross County State Championships, the host Carrollton High School boys' team kept afloat among the top-10 finishers on Saturday afternoon.
The Trojans placed ninth in a deep pool of talent with 292 team points, as Clarkston won its second consecutive state crown with 97 points.
Individually, Carrollton senior Chase Griffin took top team honors in 15th place with a personal course-record time of 17 minutes and 42.59 seconds.
"Chase has had an exceptional year. Obviously, his times have improved a lot," Carrollton head coach Eric Simmons said. "A four-year guy in the program that really this year it's been the mental side of the things. His approach and knowing his splits, taking care of himself outside of his training. He's been a consistent 17-minute guy. And really over the last four years, the last year we didn't make it, that's the best performance we've had from a Carrollton male athlete at the state cross country meet. It's definitely well-deserved. It's a reflection of all the work he's put in over the last four years."
Rounding out the Trojan runners were Donald Sener in 43rd (18:27.04), Josh Beam in 74th (18:58.66), Austin Griffies in 76th (18:59.73), Luke Schilling in 91st (19:16.58), Jacamby Parham in 144th (19:57.76) and Josh Albertus in 156th (20:15.04).
Simmons was hopeful of climbing a little higher in the team standings, but he couldn't fault the effort and performance from his guys, especially given the competition it was up against Saturday.
"Five-A is loaded. You almost have to be hitting on all cylinders to get to that top-five placement. I'm not saying I'm disappointed in the performance. Obviously, a lot of the guys wish they would have performed a little bit better, but I can't say anything negative about our performance," Simmons said.
The Lady Trojans also had a solid showing in the Class AAAAA girls' competition, placing 18th with 486 team points in the first high school state meet for a handful of the runners. Carrollton's region foe, Woodland of Cartersville, won Class AAAAA with 81 team points.
Junior Yassah Dudley paced Carrollton in 38th (22:07.65), which is a big leap from where she finished at state last year in her first trip.
"I think she was in the 70s last year. But to finish 38th with a 25-second course [personal-record], we'll take that any day of the week," Simmons said.
Behind Dudley was Elizabeth Aguilera in 75th (23:24.51), Sara Momtahan in 126th (24:51.58), Katie Wooten in 135th (25:03.65), Sophie Naguszewski in 143rd (25:20.04), Audrey Best in 147th (25:23.52) and Macey Loveless in 164th (25:51.13).
With four of the top-seven runners only being freshmen, the future is bright for the Carrollton girls' program and Simmons said getting to the state stage and turning out top performances should be the expectation for years to come.
"A lot of our young girls had to get here and experience it and see what it's about. We talked beforehand that now this is the expectation. It's not the exception," Simmons said. "We're not going to get here one year and be OK with it. This is what the expectation is. We were 21st last year and 18th this year and we want to continue to keep moving up and get into that top-10 and start competing for region championships."
Story by Corey Cusick
Reprinted from Times-Georgian