Thursday February 11th, 2016 5:47AM

Cross country: Area teams hope to bring home hardware, titles from state meet

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
Area cross country programs will be well represented Saturday when the 2013 state championships get under way at Carrollton.

And if recent years are any indication, there will be plenty of hardware headed this way.

Last season White County's Jenna Gearing ran away from the field in Class AAA to bring home the girls individual championship as a freshman. She may be in even better form entering Saturday's race than last year.

The now-sophomore won the Region 7-AAA title at Unicoi and set a new course record in the process. White County coach Sam Borg said it was perhaps her best race at the high school level at the time. She is considered a strong favorite to repeat.

"I felt I ran a real good race (at the region meet)," Gearing said. "Right now I'm just focused on getting ready for (Saturday). I'm nervous and excited but I'm looking forward to it.

"I know they'll be gunning for me but I feel if I just run my race and not get caught up in the pack or what other girls are doing, I have a good chance to win the race. But I am also excited about how our team will do."

The Lady Warriors finished third last year and come into this year's race ranked third again behind St. Pius and Blessed Trinity.

"It's going to be hard to crack the top two but we're going to give it all we've got," Borg said. "We really want to finish at least third again. That's our goal."

North Hall, Buford, and Dawson County will join White County in the Class AAA girls race. North Hall junior Makayla Ellis, who placed sixth at state last year, returns to lead the Lady Trojans.

In the Class AAA boys race, North Hall is coming off a Region 7-AAA championship run. The Trojans are ranked second behind St. Pius, which is ranked first all classifications.

The Trojans are led by juniors Quintin Miles and Bryce Schuebert, with seniors Zack Hill and Bailey Pless and junior Seth Chapman and sophomore Corson Teasley round out a solid top six that are within a minute of each other.

North Hall coach Drew Rogers it will be a long shot but they will go into the race looking to win it.

"Our boys have worked very hard and I know they'll give it their best," Rogers said. "Woodward Academy is ranked third and is not very far behind us. It should be a good three team race. If we run great and St. Pius does not, we have a shot to win."

Buford, Dawson County, and White County will join North Hall from 7-AAA.

"I think Region 7-AAA has a chance to have all four boys teams finish in the top 12, maybe even the top 10," Borg said.

In Class AAAA, both Chestatee teams come into the meet as Region 8-AAAA champs. The Lady War Eagles finished fourth at state last year and are looking to build on that performance.

Seniors Sarah Beth English and Maggee Wilson lead Chestatee and Abbie Cliche has been a pleasant surprise. Freshman Merrie Barnett and senior Shelby Bennett give Chestatee a strong group.

The Chestatee boys have been paced by Jason Dang, Jack Carnes, Ivan Martin, and Logan Brock most of the season. The War Eagles come into the meet ranked fifth and are looking for their first-ever top 10 finish at state.

In Class AAAAA, the Flowery Branch boys have led the rankings for most of the season and are coming off a dominating performance in the Region 8-AAAAA meet.

The Falcons took first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh place finishes at the region meet for their fourth straight region championship. Nick Ashmead won the race with Jake Shewbert, Miguel Martinez, Brian Young, Taylor Fiorello, and James Salvik all finishing in the top 11.

They are a strong favorite to bring home the title. Gainesville will join the Falcons from 8-AAAAA after placing third in the region meet.

The Flowery Branch girls finished third to qualify for state, paced by a third place finish from Cassie Ward.

In Class A, the Lakeview Academy boys qualified for the private schools race while the Commerce and Towns County boys teams qualified for the public schools race.
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