Northwest Georgia has long been a hot bed for distance running talent. The 2013 high school cross country season once again allowed local runners to show the state how talented they are.
Three local runners, Darlington’s Stephanie Ward and Spencer Fields along with Unity Christian’s Daniel Glick are this year’s Rome News-Tribune All-Area Cross Country Runners of the Year.
Ward, a sophomore sensation for the Tigers, jumped onto the scene early running extremely well in earl-season meets.
She won the GoGo Rome News-Tribune All-Area Meet and finished second in the hyper-competitive Region 6-A Meet at Darlington.
To top off the year, Ward surged late over the last mile of the state course at Carrollton, finishing in ninth place at the Class A Private School State Championships to earn All-State honors.
All year, Ward grabbed attention with her no nonsense running style, clocking a season best of 18:24 over 3.1 miles.
But Ward never chose to shine the spotlight on her, instead talking about the team and how much the Darlington runners meant to each other.
After finishing second at the region meet, Ward talked about how she was proud of how hard the team had worked together and did well to win another region title.
At the state meet, Ward showed her mettle out kicking another runner at the finish line and surging hard over the brutal last hill on the state course to wrap her all-state honors.
“I was really aiming to try to get top 10,” Ward said. “There was a girl in front of me at the end, and I just told myself that I had to pass her. I passed her right at the very end.”
Ward also helped the Lady Tigers finish third in state, something she was proud of but could be improved.
“Third place is good, but we were looking forward to trying to get number one,” Ward said.
“It wasn’t quite as good as we wanted it to be, but I’m happy with getting third.”
Spencer Fields was always talking about how he could improve his times and also making sure to talk about how his teammates had fared.
After grabbing a top six finish at the region meet, Fields said he was pleased with his time, but even happier that his teammates had run well and that the Darlington boys had won yet another region title.
After Fields placed 10th at the Class A Private School State Meet, he was happy but just as happy that he and his teammates had finished second in state.
“It’s pretty exciting (placing 10th), and it’s a big improvement for me from last year for sure,” Fields said. “It’s pretty great to show that individually I could do well, and we could also do well as a team.”
Field’s all-state performance was the first time under coach Alan Parrish that the Tigers had a boy earn all-state honors.
Glick’s season transpired a little different. Unity Christian can’t compete against Georgia High School Association teams in the same race, so Glick and his Lions’ teammates weren’t able to run head-to-head in high school meets with local schools.
Glick did run in junior varsity races turning in phenomenal times on local courses and his lean body and withering, fast-paced running style was far too much for anyone in the GICA to handle as he easily grabbed a region and individual state title in the GICA.
Of course, Glick also dominated the local 5K road race scene, which did allow him to compete against local runners. His many fast races include winning the overall male title at the notoriously tough Tillman Clocktower 5K in August.
One of the crazy things about the trio is they’re all underclassmen and return next year with state title dreams in tow.
ROME NEWS-TRIBUNE ALL-AREA CROSS COUNTRY TEAMS
Avery Cypress — Darlington
All season long, the Darlington boys ranked among the top teams in the Class A Private School Rankings, and Cypress’ senior leadership was a pivotal runner for the Tigers.
Cypress proved to once again be one of the top area runners, finishing second at the All-Area Meet. He also grabbed a sixth-place finish at the Region 6-A Meet, helping lead the Tigers to another region title.
He also placed 17th in Carrollton at the Class A Private School State Meet, helping the Tigers finish on the podium for the second-straight season.
Brian Vincent — Pepperell
The Pepperell sophomore had a great season and seems to have a bright future.
Vincent finished third at the All-Area Meet and grabbed an eighth-place finish at the Georgia Highlands Meet.
He saved perhaps his best race for the end of the season, kicking to the finish line to capture the Region 7-AA title. He also was the top local finisher in the AA state meet with his 14th place finish.
Eric Garcia — Calhoun
Calhoun’s turnaround this season from back of the pack in the region to winning the Region 7-AA wouldn’t have been possible if not for several key runners.
Eric Garcia, only a freshman, was one of the key cogs in the turnaround. Garcia improved all season and turned in a fifth-place finish at the Region 7-AA meet and finished 39th in the Class AA State Meet.
Ricky Cardoza — Chattooga
The senior from Chattooga had a great senior season. Cardoza finished fourth in the Region 7-AA Meet and placed 31st in the Class AA State Meet.
Mike Castellanos — Rome
Catellanos has been a fixture on the all-area team since it began three years ago. The senior from Rome had another successful campaign this fall.
He capped his season with a top 15 finish at the Region 5-AAAAA Meet and won the City-County Meet.
Jose Reyes — Coosa
Chris Edwards — Darlington
Coulter Schrum — Darlington
Jared Deaton — Darlington
Brett Arnold — Rockmart
Kerveen Ruano — Rome
Elijah Glick — Unity Christian
Esvin Garcia — Calhoun
Francisco Ramirez — Calhoun
Israel Bracamonte — Gordon Central
Christian Stevens — Model
JC Fisher — Model
Joey Purser — Pepperell
Oswaldo Franco — Rome
Dakota Holt — Adairsville
Lauren Hooper — Darlington
The junior had a season best of 19:56. She placed fourth in the All-Area Meet, seventh at the Region 6A meet and 21st at the Class A State Private School meet.
Hooper was a key cog for the Tigers, who finished third at the Class A State Meet.
Jenna Tilton — Rome
The senior from Rome finished off her high school cross country career in style.
Tilton, a fixture on the all-area team the last three years, placed second at the All-Area Meet, third at the Ridgeferry Invite and won the City-County Meet.
But perhaps her crowning achievement on the season came at the Region 5-AAAAA meet where she won the region crown.
Tilton also helped lead her teammates to the Class 5A State Meet.
Emily Sexauer — Adairsville
Winning region titles is nothing new for Sexauer. The Adairsville junior grabbed her third region title running to the Region 5-AAA crown.
She also posted a season best time of 20:28.
Cheyenne Porter — Chattooga
The senior from Chattooga grabbed her second consecutive Region 7-AA title this season.
Along the way, she had top finishes at several local meets. She placed seventh at the Georgia Highlands Meet, sixth at the All-Area Meet and 37th at the Class AA State Meet.
Kinslee Clevenger — Darlington
The junior runner recorded a season best of 19:43. She placed third in the Area Meet, sixth in the Region 6A meet and 19th at the Class A State Private School meet.
Clevenger was another key cog for the Tigers, who finished third at the Class A State Meet.
Savannah Barnett — Pepperell
Barnett finished off her senior cross country season with flair placing well at both the region and state meets.
Barnett finished second at the Region 7-AA Meet and placed 24th at the Class AA State Meet, proving once again that she was one of the best distance runners around the area.
Erin Putnam — Calhoun
Alena Holmes — Coosa
Nolan Swaim — Gordon Central
Alex Quarles — Model
Isabella Schlitz — Rome
Alexandria Dickens — Rome
Mamie Johnson — Darlington
Lizzy Bresette — Rome
Kirsten Holmes — Coosa
Annaliese Clevenger — Darlington
Jordan Wilson — Rockmart
Xena Mansoura — Rome
Crystal Lee — Trion
Charis Morgan — Unity Christian