Along with the Trojans and Villa Rica in the Class AAAA-AAAAA race, Central competed in the A-AAA race that started the day.
Lion coach Montrell McClendon is dealing with the graduation of two top seniors from last year’s team on the boys side, and some injuries on the girls team.
“I can tell this year, with the guys, they’re running a little closer together and a little faster, so that’s good. That’s hurt us in the past, because they’ve been so spread out in the course. Guys are getting faster. I’ve got a couple freshmen and some juniors that are pushing and trying to lead the pack,” McClendon said.
The Central boys team still finished second out of six teams, as Scott Anderson led the trio of top finishers with a time of 20 minutes and 24.61 seconds in 13th place. Following Anderson was Tyler Brantley (20:33.89) in 14th and Hunter Hughes (20:37.25) in 15th. Also finishing in the top 20 was Seth Brown (20:45.11) in 17th and Connor McCray (20:58.29) in 19th.
The injuries kept the girls from fielding a complete five-person team, but Anna Leah Deese showed how strong the Lady Lions could be with a second-place individual finish at 22:26.38. Catherine Westcott (26:50.35) took eighth place, while Sarah Heath (29:42.94) and Savannah McWhorter rounded out the four Central runners.
“Got a great run [from Deese], and I got some really good freshmen coming up. The girls did a really good job [Saturday]. They were short, missing most of the team. A lot of injuries, but looking toward the end of the season, I’m really expecting them to win the region championship this year with the talent we have on the team,” McClendon said.
The Trojans come into the season with high hopes on the boys side, as coach Mike Mason returns plenty of the strength from last year’s team. Mason had to keep senior Chris Foster out of the race due to a lingering injury, but was pleased with the showings from Michael Crowder and Cassidy Emory.
“We’re excited for [Crowder] to be our top runner. I had to sit out Chris Foster with an injury, who’s a top-five guy. Eli Payne did a great job stepping up for us. We’ve got some work to do, though. Obviously, it’s early in the season, but I am pleased with everybody’s attitude. We just have to get faster,” Mason said.
Crowder took 21st, just missing a medal, at 19:02.54 and Emory finished in 32nd at 19:15.78. Anthony Martinez (19:29.95) finished in 38th, Payne (19:31.35) in 40th and Nathan Trippe (19:56.94) finished in 56th in the 152-man field. Carrollton finished eighth as a team.
On the girls side, Zavannah Brown led the Lady Trojans with a 20th-place finish at 24:01.09, while teammate Emily Adams (24:21.79) finished 26th. Crystal Ruiz (25:22.16), Madison Wright (26:40.41) and Natalie Rogers (27:12.63) completed the top five Carrollton runners, as the Lady Trojans finished sixth as a team.
“Zavannah Brown had a great finish, but we want to get all these folks faster and they’re capable of doing it,” Mason said. “Emily Adams is just always solid. In fact, this is the first time she’s been beaten in a while by a teammate. They were right there together. That’s good to have those two girls together working together. I did sit out three of my top five girls. We just have to get everybody healthy.”
The Villa Rica girls just missed a trophy by 16 points, as they finished in fifth place, led by a 10th-place finish from Abbigayle Mathis (22:50.89), followed by Melissa Conchas (24:50.32) in 32nd. Then Juanita Conchas (25:33.86), Alliya Smith (25:47.98) and Angerika Colbert (25:49.01) finished 45th, 46th and 47th, respectively.
Finishing in the top five for the Wildcats on the boys side was Cody Federer (20:24.24), Deandre Dixon (20:38.18), Sean Teters (21:42.50), Jared Hyde (22:09.64) and Austin Roper (22:44.88).
In a stacked Region 5-AAAAA, the Wildcats’ focus is getting stronger throughout the year and peaking in time for region.
“We’ve been training hard, we’ve been putting in a lot of miles and are slowly building up. I told them, ‘You’ve got to see the big picture. We are aiming for a fast region and we aren’t really going to rest our legs until about a week out from then. Use this as a practice and a gauge of where we’re at and we’re excited,’” VR coach Landon Odom said.
In the other races of the day, Brookwood dominated, taking the boys and girls varsity championships, as well as the boys and girls titles in the AAAAAA races. St. Pius won the A-AAA boys, while Pacelli took the A-AAA girls. Perry won the AAAA-AAAAA boys and Lakeside, Dekalb won the AAAA-AAAAA girls title on the day.