CARROLLTON — The tough and tumble state championship course where many runners have been defeated was a place of accomplishment and cheers for the group of local athletes who raced its 3.1-mile course Saturday morning.
Over the space of an hour and a half, the top teams from Region 7-AA made their mark on competition from around the state as four runners earned top 10 individual finishes and four teams finished in the top four of their division’s final standings at the Class AA state cross country championships in Carrollton.
Armuchee’s boys’ team earned the highest honor of all Greater Rome teams by finishing as the state runner-up, while the Armuchee girls were able to push at the end and take fourth in their race.
“We’re excited. Our goal was to get two teams on the podium, and the best an Armuchee team has ever done is fourth,” Armuchee coach Scott Pierce said. “The girls equaled that and the guys had the highest finish of any Armuchee team ever.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids and most everybody back next year, so we hope to make an even bigger splash next year.”
The Indians scored 111 points and had their top five runners finish in the first 31 spots to stake their claim to a top-two finish in the team standings. Chaney Holder paced the Floyd County team with a time of 17:42 to take sixth overall in the field of more than 200 athletes.
Pepperell’s Edwin Chavez finished in 10th place with a time of 18:00 and led the way for the Dragons as they edged Toombs County for fourth place in the final standings, 187-189.
“We’ve never placed on the podium before so this is thrilling for these kids and for me too,” Pepperell coach Michael Watson said. “They’ve put in so much work and been so consistent throughout this whole season.”
The girls’ race featured a showdown between the top two 7-AA teams as region champion Armuchee and runner-up Rockmart worked to keep pace with each other. In the end, the Lady Jackets managed to stay ahead of Armuchee’s runners just enough to finish third and get on the podium as well.
“We wanted to go out and execute our plan. I think the coaches came up with a great plan for them,” Rockmart coach Adam Blalock said. “They did great. They executed very well, ran together, and placing third is well beyond what we could have imagined at the beginning of the season.”
Allie Sproull finished first for Rockmart with a time of 22:21, claiming seventh place overall. The senior stayed with the front pack the entire race, even moving into second early on before falling back a few spots.
“We hoped that they would run in a group because they had been doing that all season long and they were determined to come down here, especially our two seniors, and do something for the school,” Rockmart coach Darrell Lee said.
“They looked strong from the beginning and were able to hold it together. We’re thrilled. We believed they could do it all along and they showed up today.”
Chloe Purdy, the freshman top runner for the Lady Indians, finished just behind Sproull with a time of 22:26 for eighth overall. She capped her first year of running cross country with a top 10 finish at state.
“Chloe, she was a gift this year,” Pierce said. “I picked her up out of my class. I knew her family and that she had runners in her history. I talked her into it, and she has a knack for it. She’s a good runner.”
The surge by local teams at the state meet was a confirmation of just how competitive Region 7-AA is for Watson.
“I think that our region is getting very much more challenging,” he said. “It shows that we are just as competitive as anybody.”