Tuesday September 26th, 2017 10:45AM

Cross Country: North Hall boys, White Co. girls surge to 7-AAA crowns

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
  Contact Editor
HELEN -- Whatever nerves Witt Nix and Jenna Gearing felt on Thursday, it's too bad they can't bottle it and sell it.

The product might well be called "turbo-charged."

The duo certainly appeared to trail jet exhaust at the Region 7-AAA cross country championships at Unicoi Park in Helen, Nix storming across the finish line with a personal best 15 minutes, 54 seconds and Gearing blowing away the competition in 18:43.

Their individual gold performances in turn helped lead the North Hall boys and White County girls to team titles on a blustery, chilly afternoon in the mountains of northeast Georgia.

Nix continued the tradition of Trojans dominance at the region meet level, becoming the seventh straight North Hall runner to finish first in the boys meet -- despite facing a moment of doubt as he pulled in sight of the finish line.

"I saw the clock and it scared me," said Nix, who was gunning to break 16 minutes and bounded into view roughly 15 minutes into the race, several yards ahead of second-place finisher and teammate Tucker LoCicero. "I've seen it before like that and not broken 16, so I had to give it everything."

While Gearing had no one within a full minute of her pace, the Lady Warriors freshman generated enough of her own butterflies to keep her surging toward the finish line at record pace.

"I never looked back -- I was scared to," said Gearing, who broke her own meet record at the race (18:49) and improved her own Class AAA-best mark of the season with the electric performance. "I just get out and go. That's how I run. I know it will be harder at state."

The North Hall boys and White County girls will be joined by plenty of 7-AAA hopefuls at the state championship meet in Carrollton on Nov. 10, as the West Hall, Buford and Dawson County boys also qualified, finishing second, third and fourth respectively. Meanwhile, the North Hall, West Hall and Dawson County girls will also make the trek to west Georgia after taking second, third and fourth, respectively.

No team dominated quite like the North Hall boys on Thursday, as the Trojans swept the top four spots and also took places 8-10. North Hall finished with a mere 18 points, 62 ahead of the Spartans in second place.

"Every year we have a great top runner and they light the spark for the younger guys," said the senior Nix, who declined to say he was that spark for the 2012 squad. "We have great coaching, and they really get us ready this time of year. We've run well all season, and we've traded places a lot."

In the coming days, the only place North Hall wants to trade is second for first at the state meet.

"We've been second at state three of the last four years," Nix said. "We're tired of that. It hurts. We want to win it all this year."

If Nix can repeat another performance like Thursday's it will certainly help the Trojans' chances in Carrollton. Beating his personal best by nine seconds, Nix also outpaced his course record by 1:38.

"Before the race I was determined to break 16 minutes," said Nix, who led from the opening. "I got off to a good start and that was a confidence booster."

Gearing too surged to an early lead, as the freshman put some serious distance between herself and second place finisher Victoria Rogers (North Hall) -- though the Lady Warriors standout never took the opportunity to gauge her competition.

"It was amazing; I didn't feel as strong as I expected to today," Gearing said.

"She impresses me every race," said White County coach Sam Borg, whose team improved on last year's third-place finish. "She just pictures another girl beside her or just behind her, and that motivates her. She gets so nervous before every race, and I tell her that just means that she cares a lot."

Now the Lady Warriors hope to make as much an impression at state.

"We're hoping to get on the medal podium (finish in the top four)," Borg said. "We're ranked third right now, and I think that's a fair ranking."

Gearing's performance will be a key for White County, as the freshman looks to make a huge impression in her first state meet.

"I think it's easier as a freshman, really, because you're out there just running," Borg said. "The real challenge will come in future years."

For those teams headed to Carrollton, the future is focused on the next nine days.

Unicoi State Park, Helen
Thursday, Nov. 1

1. North Hall
2. West Hall
3. Buford
4. Dawson County
5. White County
6. Banks County
7. Fannin County

1. Witt Nix, North Hall, 15:54
2. Tucker LoCicero, North Hall, 16:19
3. Bryce Shuebert, North Hall, 16:40
4. Seth Chapman, North Hall, 16:44
5. Dylan Forester, Dawson County, 16:45
6. Austin Thompson, White County, 16:46.1
7. Jose Diaz, Banks County, 16:46.5
8. Zack Hill, North Hall, 16:47
9. Bailey Pless, North Hall, 16:55
10. Quintin Miles, North Hall, 16:57

1. White County
2. North Hall
3. West Hall
4. Dawson County
5. Buford
6. Banks County
7. Fannin County
8. East Hall

1. Jenna Gearing, White County, 18:43
2. Victoria Rogers, North Hall, 19:46
3. Kristen Mitchell, White County, 20:01
4. Ryan Sharry, West Hall, 20:11
5. Taylor Long, West Hall, 20:25
6. Makayla Ellis, North Hall, 20:33
7. Kaelyn Deal, Fannin County, 20:34
8. Katie McDowell, North Hall, 20:35
9. Megan Norris, White County, 20:52
10. Kaitlyn Gearing, White County, 21:03
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