Gor­don Lee cross coun­try run­ners have state ti­tles in their sights

Walker County Messenger - - Sports - By Scott Herpst

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)

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