The Lady Wildcats turned in stellar performances behind the No. 1 and No. 2 individual runners in Abbigayle Mathis and Haley Parham, respectively, while the Trojans had the top three finishers on the boys side in county champion Will Gordy, who was followed by Cassidy Emory and Michael Crowder.
The VR girls finished with 28 points to top Carrollton (45) and Central (58). The Carrollton boys posted a team score of 17, with VR (79) taking second and Central (86) finishing third.
Villa Rica coach Landon Odom couldn’t say enough about how proud he is of his girls squad, noting that it’s come a long way over the past few years. And winning the county crown proved to be one goal off the checklist this fall.
“They have committed to the program, they’ve committed to the system. They work hard and it was their goal this summer — they wanted to come out here and compete for a county championship. They want to go out and compete and be strong at region. They sold out [Thursday], and they’re seeing some of the fruits or their labor right now,” Odom said.
“They deserve every bit of the success that they got out here [Thursday]. We’ve got to get back after it Monday. We’ve got two weeks before region to fine-tune and hopefully we’ll bring that momentum right back into region.”
Mathis finished with a first-place effort of 22 minutes and 14 seconds for the Lady Wildcats and was followed by Parham in second (22:30), Angerika Colbert in seventh (24:01), Melissa Conchas in ninth (24:04) and Miranda Brown in 10th (24:51).
For the Carrollton boys, Gordy cruised in at a top time of 18:42 and was followed by Emory in second (19:06), Crowder in third (19:13), Eli Payne in fifth (19:24) and Blake Hamil in sixth (19:27).
Carrollton coach Mike Mason was tickled to see Gordy, just a sophomore, emerge from the pack as the front-runner on Thursday.
“First off, for the team and the depth of the team, it’s been solid all year long. We had 10 or 11 guys up there just getting after it. But what I loved about Will’s race was through the halfway point, he had two guys from Villa Rica that he could tell that they were starting to struggle and he was able to capitalize on that. He could smell blood and went for it and didn’t hold back,” Mason said.
The Carrollton coach said the in-team competition has been interesting to watch develop through the season.
“[Gordy] is just a sophomore and he’s got great work ethic. All the guys do. A great attitude. It’s contagious. Those guys work hard, they push each other and [Gordy] had a great day. I look for him to continue to get faster. But for [Thursday], he did what he had to do to win it,” Mason said. “Cassidy Emory finished second for us, and I know Cassidy is not happy to give up that No. 1 spot. He’ll battle right back for it. All those guys, they want that top spot on the team and they’re going to do what it takes to get there.”
The Villa Rica boys were led by Rodney Hill’s fourth-place effort (19:22), while Deandre Dixon came in seventh (19:35), Cody Federer placed 12th (20:17), Sean Teters was 24th (21:33) and Jared Hyde came in 27th (21:42).
And with no seniors on the varsity roster, Odom is looking for big things from the boys team in the near future, as well.
“So they’ll be back next year and they got a little taste of success [Thursday]. So hopefully they’ll come out next year and maybe compete for a championship, too,” Odom said.
The Carrollton girls were paced by a fifth-place effort from Emily Adams (23:27), and she was followed by Zavannah Brown in sixth (23:58), Crystal Ruiz in eighth (24:02), Katie Cantrell in 12th (25:20) and Nicole Wilson in 14th (26:40).
Mason said times may have been a little high on Thursday, but he attributed that to the smaller race.
“Really, it’s all about placing. Crystal Ruiz had a great day. Katie Cantrell, she’s coming off an injury and has put together two really good races back-to-back. We had a couple of our top girls still out with nagging injuries. But I’m pleased overall with the whole performance from everybody,” Mason said.
Central got into the meet as a last-minute thing, and with the team hosting the Second Annual Lion Country Invitational on Saturday at Central Middle School, coach Montrell McClendon used Thursday’s outing as more of a tune-up.
“They weren’t as ready as they should have been for this meet. It was kind of short notice for us. We have an Invitational planned for Saturday, so we’ve really been training for that day,” McClendon said. “We used this like a practice run [Thursday], because I knew we wouldn’t be at our peak. But that’s fine. The main race comes down to region and state.”
The action at CMS begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday and McClendon is looking forward to being able to serve as a meet host once again.
“It’s been good. When I took over the program, I wanted to really push the program and get it better. We finally got our own course to run on to host meets and stuff like that. So that really helps the program, too. So everything is going good,” McClendon said.