It was a cool morning for the Class AAA state cross country meet in Carrollton on Saturday.
On a very demanding course, the boys and girls teams from Dawson County finished in 12th and 11th place respectively at the Nov. 9 event.
"The state course was hard and didn't lend itself to fast times, but in a championship race situation, everything is about place rather than time," head coach Charles Beusse said.
Leading the boys' team, like he has all season, Dylan Forester finished in sixth place overall. He crossed the finish line with a time of 16:47. He was one of just two runners from public schools to finish in the top 10. The other public school runner was Quintin Miles from North Hall who finished in third place.
"Dylan ran a great race for us. AAA is one of, if not the, toughest classifications in the state for cross country and a sixth place finish is definitely something to take pride in," Beusse said.
Forester was followed by teammates Brandon Barker (18:42), Avery Cowart (18:43), Brian Colin (19:37), Armando Jimenez (19:43), Mason Carr (19:37) and Ben Umberger (20:13).
The Tigers will lose Forester, Cowart, Colin and Carr to graduation this year.
"We have some rebuilding to do, but the bar that these guys have set for our program will aide greatly in doing that. We have some good talent coming up from middle school and our junior varsity program so I think that we can come back strong next season," Beusse said.
Winning the individual title was Austin Sprague from St. Pius X with a time of 16:08. Finishing as runner up was Matt Munns from Blessed Trinity (16:39).
St. Pius won the team title with 26 points, followed by Region 7-AAA opponent, North Hall, with 46 points. The Tigers accumulated 332 team points.
Freshman Lady Tiger Bailey Cotter led the local girls' team with a 46th place finish out of 212 runners. Cotter finished the 3.1-mile course with a time of 22:26.
"Bailey (Cotter) led the team with a very strong performance in her first state meet," Beusse said.
Cotter was followed by Faith Sinclair (23:16), Melanie Rimawi (23:16), Cassidy LeCours (23:17) and Isabel Queen (23:17), all of whom finished within a minute of Cotter. Ansley Costley and Taylor Grindstaff rounded out the top seven for Dawson.
"I was very proud of how well the girls pushed through the tough course and how well they did under the pressure of competing in the state championships despite their youth. So much of this season has been about these girls getting experience and simply learning how to race," Beusse said.
Out of the top five runners; two are freshman, two sophomores and one junior.
"I think that an 11th place finish is something to be proud of. I'm very excited for things to come from this group of girls. They are all hard workers and I couldn't be more proud of how they've carried themselves this season," Beusse said.
Winning the state Class AAA individual championship was sophomore sensation Jenna Gearing from White County. It was the second consecutive state title for Gearing. Gearing broke the finish line tape with a time of 19:29.
Runner-up was freshman Audrey Honiotes from Hart County. She finished with a time of 19:49.
Capturing the team title was Blessed Trinity with 39 team points. Finishing in second place was St. Pius X with 53 points. White County was third with 93 points, while the Lady Tigers came in 11th place with 343 points.
"Overall, I'm pleased with our season. Taking over as head coach directly following college presented it's challenges, but working with such a great group of runners made it much easier. I think that we did some things this season which helped to move our program in the right direction.
"I think there are much bigger things to come. I want this season to serve as a foundation on which to build two of the strongest teams in the state. I know that Dawson County High School is capable of producing the talent to do that and that's not only the vision I have for the program, but it's what our runners want as well. Like I've told our runners: ‘If you believe it, it will be.' If we can keep believing, working hard and putting our hearts into becoming better, there's no reason that we can't be up there with the top teams in a few years," Beusse said.