Tuesday’s region meet at Dellinger Park showed there also is a bright future for the Purple Hurricanes as the boys team finished second and the girls finished first thanks to several young runners.
“We were defending champions, but we had so many seniors on that team last year and this year we had four freshmen in our top seven varsity guys. So they’re a very young team and did extremely well,” head coach David Matherne said of the boys team. “This is the best freshmen class we’ve ever had and that’s not something I say lightly. I take their top five times of the year and compare them to previous times. It’s not hyperbole to say this is the best freshmen class Cartersville has ever had.”
The Cartersville boys lost out to Coahulla Creek, who came in first place in the region with 22 points. The Canes had 29.
Meanwhile, the girls team came in first place with 38 points.
“They ran some great times, a lot of heart,” Matherne said. “Our girls have just been strong all year. We’ve had such a good season. We’ve had very few injuries and a lot of seniors.”
The Lady Canes’ star of the day was Bree Cole. The sophomore finished the race in second with a time of 20:46, good enough for a top 10 finish in Lady Canes history.
“That’s one of the best performances I’ve seen her run this year. She looked great,” Matherne said. “She’s quite a competitor and one of the strongest girls I’ve ever been able to coach. She’s amazing.”
Because the top four teams in the region make the state tournament in Carrollton on Nov. 9, both the boys and the girls qualified with their second- and first-place finishes. It is the boys program’s 28th consecutive trip to the state tournament. It will be the girls’ 24th time in 26 years.
In addition to Cole, Kailee Willis ran an impressive time of 22:09 to come in fifth. Elyse Hoganson followed her with a time of 22:21. Victoria Everhart came in 11th at 23:01 and Victoria Hickom came in 13th at 23:17. Edith Milian finished right behind her with a time of 23:21 and Tori Sims finished 23rd at 24:09.
“Bree set the tone early,” Matherne said. “Kailee and Elyse also ran some great times.”
For the boys, the Canes were led by Evan Cole and his time of 18:03. Cole finished fifth. Robbie Earick finished seventh with a time of 18:18, followed by Caeleb Jenkins at 18:19, Haden Boone at 18:31 and Andy Sims at 18:34 coming in eighth, ninth and 10th place, respectively.
“We did a great job of pack running,” Matherne said.
Will Pruitt came in 13th with a time of 18:53 and Noah Harper was right behind him in 14th with a time of 18:54.
“Our guys ran great times, best times of their season,” Matherne said. “A lot of the times were personal records, so I was quite happy for it and they worked really hard and deserved to go to state.”
It is now onto the state meet for the Canes and Matherne expects a greater challenge because of the difficult course and competition.
“It’s different because you have to be prepared for a lot of hills and it could turn cold in November. A lot will depend on how they handle the cold,” Matherne said. “It’ll be tough for the boys to compare ourself to last year’s team when we were seventh. The girls were 12th and I think the girls can improve on that place. The boys will be doing well to be in the top 15, I would say.
“The top 10 would be a surprise, but I would say we would be capable of doing that. We’re going to have to run our strongest on Nov 9.”
The varsity race was a success for both the girls and the boys teams. However, an even greater indicator of future success may have been what the two junior varsity teams did Tuesday.
Both the boys and girls JV teams finished in first place. The boys scored 18 points, while the girls put forth a near perfect score with 16. Patrick Gordon came in first with a time of 18:40. Jacob Gambill came in second at 18:54. Cody Cauffman and Dakota Gulasa finished near the top with times of 19:12 and 19:44, respectively.
For the girls, Madison Putzer led the way with a time of 23:00. Her twin sister, Payton, came in second at 23:00.
Sydney Andrews came in fourth at 24:54, while Danielle Lullie finished sixth with a time of 26:17. Meghan O’Connor was right behind her at 26:19, making for an excellent all-around day for the Purple Hurricanes cross country team.