All the miles, the conditioning, the aches and sore muscles from a season of dedication will culminate for runners on the 3.1-mile course.
For Callaway, the girls’ team advanced after capturing third place in last weekend’s 3-AAA region meet. The boys’ missed advancing by a single second when Haralson County finished in the fourth and final spot.
Coach Julie Dalfrey commented on Thursday her team has been working hard and all is quiet and calm before the Class AAA race, which is set to begin at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re excited,” Dalfrey said. “We’re a lot more relaxed. We’ve had some good practices. We’re all healthy, no injuries.”
Leading the way for Callaway is sophomore Madisyn Norris, who has been on top of the Cavaliers’ leaderboard all season. Norris had somewhat of a disappointing region meet after feeling ill during the race, but she still ran well enough to finish in fifth place.
Dalfrey is hoping Norris will compete on an even higher level this weekend as she leads her teammates in the race, which include Mackenzie Scott, Kinsleigh Stevens, Taylor Townsend and Anna Wisniewski.
What may be more impressive for Callaway is the team has accomplished the feat of making it to the state finals with all underclassmen, no juniors or seniors are on the girls’ roster this year.
“We started out with sophomores and freshmen, so we have a very, very young team,” Dalfrey explained. “Half of them had never run cross country before. I think they not only exceeded my expectations, but their own. I think they have fallen in love with the sport. They have found something they’re good at.”
For LaGrange, things went well during the Region 5-AAAA meet, with both teams advancing to state.
Sarah Bearden led her team to a fourth-place finish in the region with a time of 19:03.56, shattering her own school record she broke in early October when she eclipsed the 20 minute mark at 19:59.
“Sarah is ready to go,” coach Brad Wilson said. “She’s very excited about going up against some of the best in the business. It’s such a competitive meet. I really want them to go out and relax and let the race to come to them.”
Bearden will be joined on the course by teammates Ellie Doerr, Emilia Arthur, Violeta Haro-Oropeza, Brooke Yarbrough, Colleen Riggs and Destiny Brown. The girl’s race begins at 9 a.m. Saturday.
For the LaGrange boys, Wilson will look to a pair of runners who have finished 1-2 throughout the season. Andrew Coggins and Sam Bowie have battled each other for the top spot all year. Bowie has especially come on strong toward the end of the season. This time a year ago, he was running in middle school cross-country meets. Now, he is facing one of his biggest challenges as a young freshman when he starts Saturday’s race next to Coggins, whose best time of the season of 16:18.74 at the region meet was surpassed by Bowie, who ran a 16:06.22 at region and finished in second place. Coggins finished in fourth place.
Coggins had been hampered by a bout of the flu, but Wilson said he has fully recovered and is back in top form as he and his teammates prepare for the 8 a.m. Saturday start.
“I think it will go down to the wire,” Wilson said of the race between Bowie and Coggins. “I think both of them are going to push each other. They’re really good friends and the best thing about them is neither one of them gets down or upset when they lose to the other one. They’re more excited for the other one than anything. I think it will be interesting to see and hopefully for us they’ll both get into the top 10 and both get on the podium and get medals.”
Wilson commented that the course in Carrollton most likely will not be as fast as the one at Clinton Farms near Douglasville during the region meet where so many athletes set personal bests.
“It’s a tough course,” Wilson said. “They seem to tweak it almost every year. This year they tweaked it again. Early estimates from the previous races they’ve run there this season is running about 20 seconds slower than the state did last year, which is about 45 seconds to a minute slower than our region course. So it’s one of the tougher courses in the state, but that’s great for a state meet. At state, it’s really not about time, it’s all about place.”
Wilson announced one change has been made in the boys’ lineup that is different from the region meet. Junior varsity runner Garrett Godby will replace runner Hiram Haro-Oropeza as the seventh competitor for the Grangers.
“Garrett was our top JV finisher at region actually ran about 20 seconds faster than our seventh varsity guy,” Wilson said. “We went ahead and had to make the switch there. He’s (Haro-Oropeza) disappointed, but he’s taking the news really well and he wants to do what’s best for the team. He’s been out here with us all week as an alternate and he knows if anything happens between now and Saturday, he’s got to suit up and do it.”
LaGrange’s runners rounding out the field for Saturday include Jonathan Pelham, Adrian Wyatt, Garrett Cashwell and Darius Jackson.