Running in almost perfect conditions according to head coach Charles Beusse, the Dawson County cross country program turned in an almost perfect day on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at the 7-AAA Regional Championship in Helen.
“I prefer race temps on the cooler side, but the temps in the 60's today should be great,” Beusse said. “If I could pick perfect conditions, I would want about 55 with low humidity and low wind. I'll take the 60's though after just finishing a season with more days in the 90's than any year on record.”
Regardless if it was the fall-like temperatures or the consistent improvement the team has shown all season long, the junior varsity boys set the standard for Dawson County in the opening race of the day.
First year runner, sophomore Garrett Fillingame, crossed the finish line of the two-mile course in just over 18 minutes with an official time of 18:04.00 to capture the individual regional title and lead the JV Tigers to the top of the podium as the 2019 7-AAA Regional champions.
“Garrett has steadily improved this year and showed up big on Wednesday,” Beusse said. “He ran his last 800m exactly as we had practiced and was able to outkick a North Hall runner to win in the final meters of the race.”
All five scoring runners for the Tigers crossed the finish line in the top-15 of the field of 67 runners as Ethan Powell and Austin Lawson finished third and fourth, respectively while Ryan McGinnis and Teagan Rhodes captured the tenth and eleventh spots.
Not to be outdone, the junior varsity girls placed six runners in the top-10 of their early afternoon race to capture Dawson County’s second regional championship of the day. The Lady Tigers dominated the top-5 spots with a trio of eighth graders.
Ann LeCave led the pack with a second-place time of 21:31.50 followed closely by Jules Phillips and Elizabeth Knight in third and fourth. Lauren Dye crossed the line in sixth with Isabelle Kinsey rounding out the scoring with an eighth-place finish. Sophomore Megan McVay captured tenth to cement the Lady Tigers impressive win.
“The JV success on both the boy's and girl's sides high-lights the depth we have this year and also shows that the future of the program looks bright. To place six runners in the top 10 is a rare feat and shows just how good these younger runners are.” Beusse said. “So many times, during the season the spotlight is on the success of our varsity teams and JV doesn't get the credit or recognition they deserve. Our JV teams showed up and made a statement.”
At the varsity level, there is no greater rivalry than that between the Dawson County Tigers and the North Hall Trojans. Over the last four seasons the schools have split the 7-AAA regional title evenly, at two each, separated overall by a miniscule nine points.
This year’s race was no exception as the two teams combined to take nine of the top-10 slots, with every runner crossing the finish line in under 17 minutes, in what will go down in the books as one of the best cross-country races in both school’s histories.
North Hall’s Andrew Jones captured the individual title with a 5K time of 16:10.7 after holding off a late race push from Dawson County senior Collin Kilgore who claimed the second spot with his time of 16:14.3. Fellow senior Ben McGinnis finished third 1.1 seconds later.
Both fourth and fifth place went to the Trojans, followed by Kyle Boyd of Cherokee Bluff as the lone outsider in the group. Junior Luke Hamby and sophomore Ethan Smith hit the line next, with another pair of Trojans rounding out the front-runners.
Cross-country is scored along the same lines as golf, with the lower score being better, and by a final score of 39 – 41 North Hall edged out Dawson County for the 7-AAA title.
“While it is always tough to come up short, I felt that our boys gave me all they had and that's all I could ask for. North Hall has a great team and I have tremendous respect for them and for Coach Borg,” Beusse said. “The boys were a little disappointed, but the main focus now is to look ahead instead of behind us. Our entire focus is now on the state meet and channeling all the emotion from region toward a strong performance at the state meet.”
The Lady Tigers capped off the already epic day with a state qualifying third-place finish in the after a tough battle with both North Hall and the Cherokee Bluff Lady Bears. Senior Evion Reinhardt and junior Celine Sapp added to the number of top-10 finishers for Dawson County with a seventh and ninth place finish, respectively.
“If I'm not mistaken, I believe this year marks the 12th consecutive season that both the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams have qualified for state, something very few public schools can say,” Beusse said. “Our athletes have worked very hard over the years to bring our program to where it is, and I believe that is a testament to the great students we have in Dawson County. I'm very proud of our athletes’ athletic accomplishments, but I'm prouder of the great young men and women who have come through the program over the years.”
The 2019 GHSA Cross-Country State Finals will take place in Carrolton on Saturday, Nov. 2 with the first Dawson County runners scheduled to start at noon.