Cross country runners in Georgia spend most of the year training in the heat, including 90-plus degree weather in the preseason and in early season meets in August.
So, of course, the most important meet of the year for the Cartersville High cross country team occurred on the coldest morning of the season Friday in Carrollton.
The Canes acquitted themselves well, considering, as the boys team placed sixth and the girls finished 11th in the Class 4A state meet.
“I'm pleased with the effort and I'm satisfied with the results given it was a tough field today,” Cartersville head coach David Matherne said. “[Class] 4A is a really tough division and our kids ran hard.”
Matherne said he was hoping for a podium finish (top 4) for the boys, but he said not meeting that goal was attributable to the strength of the field rather than his runners’ performance.
"We packed well. Our pack was close to 30 seconds apart. That's what you want,” Matherne said. "We had our fifth man in the top 60 and we had talked about getting a tight pack up there and we did that.”
It was clear the Canes adhered to their pack strategy, as they all placed between 26 and 56 in a 222-runner field. Sidney Stegall led the way with a time of 17:37, followed by Alex Rios in 33rd at 17:50, Bill Archer in 38th at 17:58, Levi Booth in 42nd at 17:59 and Colin McCann in 56th at 18:13.
"Alex Rios had a great race. So did Levi Booth and Colin McCann. They really performed well,” Matherne said. "Sidney Stegall was the best freshman in the race. We had bright spots, but it just wasn’t good enough. Close to 20 points more and we’re third and we're sitting up there in the podium. But that’s the difference."
For the girls, McKinsey Spinks led the way in 39th at 22:03, followed by Jaxiry Betancourt in 58th at 22:52, Trinity Atkins in 60th at 22:56, Alice Terry in 104th at 24:29 and Trista Kelly in 115th at 24:55.
“Fantastic,: Matherne said of the girls’ performance. "We’ve always had confidence that McKinsey Spinks would have a race near the front. Jaxiry Betancourt had the race of the day; she lit it up and so did Trinity Atkins. They both had great races on that course.”
The appearance at the state meet marked the 34th consecutive time the boys had qualified, and the girls have made state 31 out of the past 32 years. And, with every point scorer for the meet being an underclassman, the Canes sit in a strong position to be right back at the Carrollton Elementary course next year.