Darlington won out the Rome All Area race
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.
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.