By R. Alan Richardson
For the first time in the careers of any of the current Morgan County Cross Country athletes, they are a part of a state qualifying team. To make things even better, both the boys and girls teams have earned the opportunity to compete in the state meet to be held this Saturday in Carrollton.
The boys advanced to the state championship event by virtue of a runner-up finish in the region 8-AAA meet held last Thursday in Hartwell. The team captured second place in the region with a total of 61 points. The runner-up finish was made possible by three members of the MCHS boys team finishing in the top ten and four in the top 15. The Bulldogs were paced by Alex Rountree, who finished with a time of 18:03, which was good for the sixth overall spot in the region. Kevin Berisko and Jordan Hilsman came in just behind Rountree with times of 18:07 and 18:09, respectively. Dalton Shaw, who has led the boys team all season, battled a nagging injury throughout the race but still medaled with the 14th best overall time in the region. Cody Pace rounded out the top five for the MCHS boys with a time of 19:14.
The Lady Bulldog runners took home the fourth and final invitation to the state meet given by region 8-AAA. The Morgan County girls scored a total of 76 points, which put them just behind Jackson County. Jessie Pagett, Mary Zimmerman, and Carolina Zant each earned medals by finishing in the top 15. Pagett led the way for the Lady Bulldogs with a time of 23:13. Brooke Randall took the 18th overall spot in the region with a time of 24:21. Emily Dickson completed the top five for the Lady Bulldogs. Dickson took 20th place overall in the region with a time of 24:27.
As you would expect, all of the members of the Cross Country program were ecstatic about their accomplishment. The team has trained diligently since June to improve their strength and endurance. Improvements have been noted throughout the season as many runners have made gains and set personal records along the way. First year head coach Erin Spinks commented, “The athletes have worked diligently all season and set big goals from the beginning. We began the summer by saying ‘when we make it to state’. We used that mindset to train hard. I am so proud of each athlete. This is a lesson that hard work truly pays off.”