Gordon Lee cross country runners have state titles in their sights
The 2016 cross country season was arguably the most successful one as a whole for the Gordon Lee High School program. Both the boys’ and girls’ teams won area championships and both went to place third at the Class A Public School meet.
It was the highest state finish for a Gordon Lee boys’ team and the second-highest finish for a Gordon Lee girls’ team, who own a previous state runnerup trophy.
And if early returns mean anything, 2017 is shaping to possibly be the biggest and best year in the program’s history.
“We’re looking pretty solid right now,” head coach Nathan Burns explained. “We had a good first meet at Ridge Ferry (Rome). I was really excited about the numbers there. There were lots of personal records set on a fast course.
“We didn’t lose anyone on the girls’ (side). We lost two of our top seven boys, so we’re looking for replacements there, but we have two pretty strong teams coming back. I’m looking for good things from both of them this season.”
On the girls’ side, sophomore Gracie O’Neal bested the previous school record by nearly two minutes and destroyed her own personal-best time by almost six full minutes as she won at Ridge Ferry in a time of 18:19. She placed second in last year’s state meet, one spot ahead of Kate Gilliam. Gilliam, a senior, was 11th at state a year ago and capped the season by being named the Walker County Female Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Gilliam, along with senior Riley Cash and junior Kaylan Jackson, all ran in under 23
minutes in Rome, while sophomore Taylor McAllister and freshman Grayson Alexander crossed the line just over the 23-minute mark. All will be counted on heavily this season, as will senior Michaela Russell and juniors Emma Cate Dendy and Chanler Hysell.
Cole Collins is the lone senior on the boys’ roster and will be a mainstay in the top seven, along with junior Jasper Wilson, who also had a record-setting first meet in Rome. Wilson, who won the area title and placed third at state last year by running 18:51 in both races, clocked in at 16:52 at Ridge Ferry to place sixth overall. That time broke the Trojans’ school mark by three seconds and would have won state last year by more than 30 seconds.
Two more top runners for the Trojans are sophomore Ian Goodwin and freshman Jake Lee, who both turned in sub-18 minute times in Rome. Other names to know for the 2017 season include juniors Braxton Ledford, Jagger Martin and Michael Hubona, along with sophomore Alex Stone.
“The ultimate goal is to be on top of the podium (at state),” Burns said. “But each day our goal is just to get better as a team, and I feel like if we keep doing that, we’ll be at the top of the podium come November.”
Seniors Cole Collins, Riley Cash, Kate Gilliam and Michaela Russell are hoping to close out their high school cross country careers with state championships. Both the Trojans and Lady Trojans placed third in the Class A Public School state meet last year. (Photo by Scott Herpst)