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CROSS COUNTRY: Rome’s boys win Region 7-5A title, while girls finish second overall

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For one of the few times all season, Rome cross country coach Luis Goya was not concerned with his runner’s times. He wanted them to attack the course they trained for all year because if they did that, the trophies would come.

Rome shined above its competitors Thursday at the Region 7-5A title meet as the Wolves finished first as a team and the Lady Wolves finished second at Woodland High School. Rome’s Patrick Motes finished third in the boys’ race, while Nora Bailey took eighth for the girls.

The results were a major improvement from last season and an example of the work each team had put in throughout the year.

“I’m still excited and I’m still in shock,” Goya said. “We worked so hard for this one moment, and this is a defining moment for the program. We just had belief in ourselves and confidence that we could get stronger every week.”

The Rome boys finished with 38 points, which was 17 points ahead of second place Hiram.

The Hornets actually had the top two runners, but Rome’s top five all finished in the top 11, including Motes and Sam Pierce coming in third and fifth.

The key to the win came during the middle of the race, when runners had to tackle a large hill near Woodland’s campus. Each Rome runner seemed to make up ground in his individual group of runners, especially Motes who finished with a 5K time of 17:25.

The Wolves tackled the course earlier in the year and appeared ready when the difficult incline came up Thursday.

“The first time we took on this hill, it really threw us off,” Motes said. “But we really practiced hard on hill runs and we put in the work. We knew what that hill was going to be like the second time and we knew how to pace ourselves.”

Woodland dominated the girls’ race as its runners took the top six places in the race. Bailey was right behind them in eighth with a time of 21:22, while Sarah Glick and Janet Hartman finished right behind her in ninth and 10th place.

Rome’s final test comes next Friday in the state championship, with the boys’ race at 9 a.m. in Carrollton and the girls’ race following that. Goya believes, just like on Thursday, his teams can turn some heads.

“The first check on my list of goals is done, but I have one more,” Goya said. “I want to go down there and finish top five or top 10 in the state. It’s super competitive, a whole other level down there, but I think we can really make a mark.”