After dominating the North Georgia Athletic Conference for over a decade, the Heritage Middle School cross country team continued their stay at the top on Tuesday.
In the first-ever sanctioned NGAC cross country championship meet, the Navy-and-Red had six of the top 10 boys' finishers and five of the top 10 girls' finishers to sweep the team titles on their own home course.
Cross country has been a sport offered in the local middle schools for many years, but it finally became a sanctioned sport in the conference in 2017 as eight schools fielded teams. Only seven school competed on Tuesday as Trion was on fall break and elected not to run.
"I've been working with cross country for a while now," Heritage coach Steve Bradley said. "It's really cool to have it be a sanctioned event now. It's something I've worked on for the last nine years now, trying to get all the teams on board.
"I think it went pretty smooth today. I'd love to eventually get all 10 teams involved, but for the first year, I think everyone was responsive and did a great job. They came to all the meets this year, even the ones in Chattanooga, and everyone got really involved."
As for Tuesday's races, Heritage's Gavin Chandler pulled away in the closing moments to finish the two-mile course in 11:49 and beat out Ringgold's Brent Bowman by a single second (11:50). The Heritage duo of Davis Justice (12:21) and Will Waldrop (12:30) placed third and fourth, respectively, while Andy Breeden (12:31) of Dade County was fifth.
The rest of the top 10 included Heritage's Noah Lovell (12:35), Ringgold's Kale Davis (12:39), Heritage's Josiah Cook (12:43), Heritage's Hayden Hall (12:45) and LaFayette's Preston Alexander (12:50).
The Generals finished with 23 points, followed by Ringgold (64), Dade County (103), LaFayette (133), Saddle Ridge (164), Lakeview (223) and Rossville (300). It was the 11th NGAC cross country title for the Heritage boys.
On the girls' side, Anna Ballard of Dade County crossed the line first, clocking in at 12:45. The trio of Carol Anne Grannamore (13:36), Emily Woody (13:37) and Gracie Murray (13:40) took second, third and fourth for Heritage, while Dade's Madi McMahan (13:55) was fifth.
The rest of the top 10 was filled out by Lakeview's Katie Bono (13:57), Saddle Ridge's Haynie Gilstrap (14:10), Heritage's Emma Tennyson (14:11), Rossville's Isabelle McGill (14:28) and Heritage's Kalei Howard (14:50).
In the girls' team standings, Heritage amassed 27 points, followed by Dade County (52), Saddle Ridge (109), Ringgold (134) and Rossville (171). LaFayette and Lakeview did not have enough runners to qualify for the team score. It was the 13th all-time NGAC cross country championship for the Lady Generals.
"They did a great job today and they've done a great job all year," Bradley said of his squads. "They've been very competitive in every meet they've been in this season. I'm proud of the way they went out and battled and how they handled themselves on the course."