A collection of strong performances across the board helped the Dawson County varsity boys and girls cross country teams both finish well at the Class 3A State Championship on Saturday, Nov. 5, — with the girls team earning fifth place and the boys finishing sixth.
In a group of 24 teams and 172 runners, the girls team had three runners finish in the top 20 overall, led by freshman Hayden Hand’s ninth-place mark of 21:16.75.
The boys team were in a slightly larger group of 26 teams and 187 runners, with junior Tyler Tangel leading the Tigers with a time of 18:31.08.
“I’m proud of how well we ran at the state championship race,” head coach Jonathan Tinsley said. “They are a great group of kids and a lot of fun to coach. I’m just glad to be a small part of it.”
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Each team made significant improvements from the previous season — in both individual times and collective achievements.
The girls team, who had missed out on the state championship last year, worked throughout the summer to get back on that stage.
Between the leadership of juniors Anna LeCave, Jules Phillips and Katie Gloeckner and the strong group of freshman runners Hand, Harper Dussouy and Addison Smith, the team quickly became one of the strongest in Region 7-3A.
After finishing as runner-up in the Region Championship, the girls team brought their best efforts to Carrollton.
One of the stories of the season for DCHS cross country has been the efforts of Hand, who fought through an early-season injury to become the top finisher for her team at the state meet.
“I’m a really competitive person. So from a young age, any chance that I could compete I would do it,” Hand said. “I think [our] team has a lot more to show but I think next year’s going to be a really good season.”
Her ninth-place finish was followed up by LeCave in 15th at 21:49 and Phillips in 19th at 21:54.
Dussouy and Smith rounded out the five runners counted for the final scores with times of 23:19 and 23:48, respectively, placing 35th and 44th. Gloeckner and senior Daisy Sanchez finished in the top 100.
With all five of those counted runners finishing that high up the board, Dawson finished ahead of White County and Pickens, who had the race’s individual winner and runner-up, respectively.
The boys team had a tight group of runners mostly consisting of juniors who had worked during the season to become a region contender. Tangel would prove himself to be the lead runner this season, often finishing below the 18-minute mark.
After finishing third at the Region Championship, the boys team would finish sixth at state to improve by five spots compared to last season’s 11th-place performance.
While Tangel led again — improving his time from last year’s state championship by around a minute — it was sophomore Bailey Swafford who showed another example of Dawson’s youthful potential. He finished second on the team at 18:48.— just four spots behind Tangel.
“Coming into this season we had no seniors, so a lot of us had to step up and get faster over the summer…so we could be ready at times like this for state,” Swafford said. “The [region] race could have been the end of it so we had to….finish as hard as we could at the end of the season and not let it end right there.”
After Swafford, the next two across the line were Cael Hand and Luke Lowe, who finished in succession at 19:10 and 19:11 — good for 44th and 45th.
Emory Lail wrapped up the counted scores with a finish of 19:28 for 55th. Freshman Luke Collins posted 19:42 while sophomore Aaric Muilenburg ended his day at 20:32.
Tinsley has enjoyed watching both teams grow and improve throughout the season.
“I can’t say enough how proud and honored I am to be their coach,” Tinsley said. “They came all summer and worked extremely hard over the course of the season. We are in a great position for next season. We hope to make a push and win our region and get on that podium at the state championship race.”