The Dawson County Middle School cross-country team traveled over three-hours on Friday, Oct. 11 to prepare for the Middle School State Championship on Oct. 12 at Bleckley County Elementary in Cochran, GA.
After a regular season that saw the middle school girls’ team take first place in three of four races, win the league championship, and start the post-season with a huge victory at the prestigious Runners Fit Mountain Invitational last week the young ladies from Dawson were widely considered a dark horse candidate to win it all.
Led by sixth-grader Hayden Hand and seventh-grader Bella Hunt, both of whom finished in the top-25 out of a field of 130 runners, the Lady Tigers topped off their historic season with an overall fifth-place finish to stand atop the podium with the likes of powerhouse programs from Marist, Pace Academy and Jefferson.
A trio of eighth-graders, Ann LeCave, Jules Phillips and Elizabeth Knight rounded out the scoring for the team. All three runners finished in the upper-third of the field to put a comfortable distance between the sixth place Fannin County Rebels and falling just shy of the fourth place North Hall Trojans.
The middle school boys entered the race with unknown expectations after seeing immense improvement over the course of the regular season and turning in strong showings at both the regional finals and the Mountain Invitational over the past two weeks.
Using a group strategy similar to the one employed by the high school teams, the team’s runners stuck together as a pack to maneuver through the field of 150 runners crossing the finish line within 30 seconds of each other to give the team a solid twelfth place finish.
All five scoring runners hail from the eighth grade, with Tyler Tangle at the front of the pack, followed by Cael Hand, Luke Lowe, Noah Smith and Chase Cofeld.
Middle School head coach Johnathan Tinsley could barely contain his excitement as he congratulated his teams on their performance.
“The Teams did great this weekend, I'm so proud of how the performed at the meet” Tinsley said. “They ran against the top teams in 3A and 4A classifications. It was a great way to finish and awesome season.”
The sentiment was echoed by high school head coach Charles Beusse as he monitored the results from the Pickesn and A’Grinnin Invitational where the varsity teams were participating in their final race of the regular season.
“The middle school teams both had excellent showings this weekend and capped off a historic season with 5th and 12th place finishes at the state meet,” Beusse said. “I can't say enough about the hard work of our sixth through eighth grade runners and the work Coach Tinsley has done. About three years ago, Coach Tinsley took over the program and it has grown every year since.”
At the varsity level, the girls’ team continues to battle through injuries that has left the squad without their normal contingent of runners, while the boys’ team is still closing the gap between their top two runners, Ben McGinnis and Collin Kilgore, and the three through five positions.
Competing in Pickens County on Saturday, Oct. 12 the boys finished third place overall in what coach Beusse described as “their best performance of the season” with all five runners coming in with a 5K time of under 17:35.
The Lady Tigers saw a trio of runners, Celine Sapp, Macy French and Molly Meunchen turn in their best times of the season to give the team a boost as they begin their final preparations for the regional finals at Unicoi State Park on Oct. 23.