Rockmart, Cedartown cross country teams cap a positive season

Rockmart’s Eisley Pope was the top finisher for the Lady Jackets at the state meet, coming in 51st with a time of 24 minutes, 19 seconds.

A successful year for Polk County’s high school cross country teams ended at the Georgia High School Association state championships on Friday in Carrollton.

Both Cedartown and Rockmart sent a team to compete in their respective state championship race, with Rockmart’s girls squad running in Class 3A and the Cedartown boys running in Class 4A.

The Lady Jackets had a strong showing on Friday morning as Rockmart finished 14th out of 28 teams. Eisley Pope led the way, finishing 51st with a time of 24 minutes, 19 seconds on the 5-kilometer course.

Trista Landgren (25:05) was 76th while Sierra Fincher (25:25) came in 86th . Makayla Fortenberry (26:49) and Bryanna Fortenberry (27:00) were 114th and 119th, respectively, while Michelle Carter (29:02) and Dori Owen (30:29) came in 141st and 159th .

“After our region meet, our goal was to finish in the top 15 of the state race,” Rockmart cross country coach Adam Blalock said. “We spent the week doing short runs, keeping them conditioned ahead of the race. I felt like the team peaked at the right time, right around the

region meet, and that carried over into the race on Friday.”

Blalock singled out Pope, Landgren, and Fincher as standout performers at Carrollton.

“Eisley is a team captain for us, and has been our No. 1 in all but one race this season,” Blalock said. “Trista, who’s a three-year starter for us, had her best year so far in 2020. Sierra did great all season but had her best race of the year at state.”

Blalock stated that there is room for improvement following a very successful first year in Class 3A. “This year went a little better than I had anticipated considering we were moving up to 3A,” Blalock said. “The boys and girls teams fought hard all the time, and I’m looking forward to seeing them rise up to the challenge again next year.”

Rockmart’s girls, who finished third in the state in 2017, are expected to be one of the best teams in 3A next year. Blalock is excited for the Lady Jackets, who return every runner from their 2020 squad. The boys team returns a great amount of talent as well for 2021.

Cedartown’s boys team qualified for state after finishing fourth in the Region 7-4A race on Oct. 27. “I tested our guys after the region race because I expected us to finish second,” Cedartown cross country coach Richard Shortt said. “I challenged them to finish second among our region teams running in the state race.”

The Bulldogs did not finish ahead of their region foes, but it was not due to lack of trying. Region 7 had fantastic showings in Carrollton as Pickens finished fourth, Southeast Whitfield was eighth, and Heritage-Catoosa was tenth. Cedartown, the lowest-qualifying team in the region, came in 14th out of 32 teams at the state meet.

Britt Baxter (19:36) came in 57th while Leo Segura (19:37) was 59th . Brandon Ramos (20:05) and Uriel Guzman (20:27) came in 74th and 85th, respectively. Will Statham (20:49) was 102nd, Knox James (20:51) came in 105th, and Dalton Benefield (21:07) finished 117th.

“I was very proud of our guys for giving it their all and shocking a lot of teams in Carrollton,” Shortt said. “I told the guys that they should at least finish in the top 25 so that we would be considered one of the best four-seeds in the state. But, finishing 14th , I think we showed that we may have finished first or second in a lot of other regions.”

Shortt credited the great talent in Region 7 for having his team battle-tested in the state championship race. The CHS head coach shared his excitement for the girls and boys teams in

2021, who each return a plethora of starting talent from the 2020 squads.

“We will give our runners this week off and then voluntary practices for track start the following Monday,” Shortt said. He said that each of his athletes will be staying active during the winter and spring months and that he expects them all to show up for November morning workouts.

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