Dar­ling­ton won out the Rome All Area race

The Standard Journal - - SPORTS - By JEREMY STEWART RN-T Sports editor

A slight bump or an ex­tra push can mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween first and sec­ond place in highly com­pet­i­tive sit­u­a­tions.

The Dar­ling­ton cross coun­try team was tested on that les­son Satur­day morn­ing and passed.

With three run­ners in the top four, Dar­ling­ton’s girls picked up enough points at Ge­or­gia High­lands Col­lege to edge Bre­men by three points for the team ti­tle at the 2016 Rome Al­lArea Cham­pi­onships on Satur­day.

The Tigers mean­while had their five scor­ing run­ners fin­ish in the top 20 of the boys’ race to win a three-way dead heat with Cal­houn and Rome High.

Dar­ling­ton coach Katie El­lis was still let­ting the sweep sink in a few mo­ments after the boys’ team col­lected its first place tro­phy.

“I’m thrilled,” El­lis said. “We knew it would be close and that the boys had an out­side shot. We knew they could do it. They were tightly packed and ran well as a team.”

The Lady Tigers, who won with a score of 57, com­peted with usual var­sity run­ner Lil­ley Wash­burn sit­ting out nurs­ing an in­jury.

“So ev­ery­one was go­ing to have to step up,” El­lis said. “We were go­ing to find out what kind of team we re­ally are.”

Kate Flory was once again the top run­ner for Dar­ling­ton’s girls, stay­ing on the leader and fin­ish­ing sec­ond over­all with a time of 20:07. Bre­men’s Grace Cle­ments was the over­all win­ner with a time of 19:32 for the 5K course.

Flory said she felt fine run­ning the course for the first time de­spite be­ing ill ear­lier in the week.

“When it flat­tened out, that’s when I was able to stretch my lead a lit­tle bit,” the se­nior said. “We’re step­ping up re­ally well and have a solid top five.”

Dar­ling­ton fresh­man Mag­gie Hawkins fol­lowed Flory to fin­ish in 21 min­utes flat, while Emily Ed­wards came in fourth in 21:03.

Giulia Verzino was 19th over­all (22:54) and Frances Fields was 32nd (24:05).

Law­son Blake paced Dar­ling­ton’s boys with a time of 18:11 for ninth over­all. While Cal­houn had three run­ners fin­ish in the top ten and Rome had two in the top six, Dar­ling­ton’s other four run­ners came in 20th or bet­ter, giv­ing the Tigers the edge in the team scores with a fi­nal tally of 73. Cal­houn was sec­ond with 78, and Rome was third with 81.

Sono­rav­ille’s Drake John­son won the boys’ race, lead­ing the ma­jor­ity of the race and com­ing in at 17:16, 20 sec­onds ahead of sec­ond-place John Berry Bowl­ing of Rome High.

John­son had an ex­pres­sion of amaze­ment as he crossed the fin­ish line and later called his vic­tory “un­be­liev­able.”

“I’ve never come to an in­vi­ta­tional like this and ex­pected to do that well,” John­son said. “It just seemed that the fur­ther on I went, the more com­fort­able I got.”

The se­nior said he had ran in the 17:40s this sea­son and placed pretty well, but never as well as he did Satur­day.

“It’s been a long process,” John­son said. “I thank my team­mates for their sup­port through ev­ery­thing.”

Cal­houn’s Jonathan San­tana was third (17:45) and fol­lowed by team­mate Esvin Gar­cia (17:53).

Most teams will have a week off be­fore com­pet­ing in their re­spec­tive region meets the fi­nal week of Oc­to­ber. The GHSA Cross Coun­try State Cham­pi­onships will be Nov. 4-5 in Car­roll­ton.

Jeremy Ste­wart/RN-T

Top: Rock­mart's Mary Ella Owen (right) works to stay ahead of an Ar­muchee run­ner. Above: Cedar­town’s Ja­son Blanken­ship runs on Oct. 15 in the cham­pi­onships.

Rock­mart's Al­lie Sproull runs in the 2016 Rome All-Area Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onships at Ge­or­gia High­lands Col­lege on Oct. 15.

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