Ten cross country athletes each from Woodland and Cartersville high schools were recognized for their outstanding achievements during the 2018 GHSA season at the Wire2Wire Running Cross Country Elite 10 Banquet Tuesday night at Mellow Mushroom.
The 10 fastest girls and 10 fastest boys in Bartow County, based on personal-best times during the high school season, were honored for their success. Tuesday marked the second year for the banquet. While some things remained the same, a few aspects were bigger and better including a move from Trinity United Methodist Church.
"We used last year as a model, but it was definitely new and improved," Wire2Wire co-founder David Matherne said of Tuesday's event. "... A lot of things were done the same, but I think the energy behind it was far better this year. Last year, people that came didn't know quite what to expect. They thought it was cool and everything. This year, the runners know our business, and they know we're not doing it for any other reason than to celebrate the kids."
Eight members of the Woodland girls Class 5A state championship team made the top 10, along with a pair of Cartersville standouts. On the boys side, the roles were reversed with eight Canes and two Wildcats making up the honorees.
Woodland junior McKenna Trapheagen, who cruised to the 5A individual title this past season, and Cartersville sophomore Bill Archer landed female and male athlete of the year, respectively, after posting the fastest times in the county.
Trapheagen posted her personal-best time of 17, minutes 59 seconds at the Coach Wood Invitational. Her finish was nearly a minute ahead of her next closest female competitor, teammate Tess Cochran, who crossed in 18 minutes, 54 seconds.
Cochran had her best time of the season at the Ridge Ferry Invitational, as did several of her teammates. Rylee Evans (fourth, 19:13), Baylee Evans (fifth, 19:26), Cheyenne Spinks (sixth, 19:53) and Erica Boatner (eighth, 20:59) all secured their individual-bests at the event.
Woodland's other two female honorees posted season-best finishes at the Great American XC Festival. Third-place Carli Clymer, who placed first in the girls division last year, completed that race in 19 minutes, 11 seconds and 10th-place Marlee Bowles crossed in 21 minutes, 23 seconds.
Cartersville's two girls secured their fastest times in the Region 5-AAAA meet with Alex Machado (seventh) and Vanna Beach (ninth) finishing in 20:57 and 21:07, respectively.
Archer, who picked up the top boys prize for the second straight year, edged out freshman teammate Alex Rios for the boys crown. The former's Atlanta Classic time of 16:41 was just enough to beat Rios' 16:54 from the region meet.
Woodland placed its two boys representatives inside the top-5 with John Shropshire (third, 17:07) and Dylan Stermer (fifth, 17:18) just on opposite sides of Cartersville's Max Florence (fourth, 17:12).
The Canes swept the final five spots, thanks to solid times from the region course. Harrison Banks (17:27), Parker Breedlove (17:36), Levi Booth (17:43), Jacob Busek (17:49) and Banks Wilson (17:54) closed out the top-10 selections in stair-step fashion.
For Matherne, who doubles as Cartersville High coach alongside Matt Terry, there's no greater feeling than seeing an athlete — any athlete — honored for their accomplishments.
"I honestly separate myself as Cartersville High coach and Wire2Wire business owner," Matherne said. "I just see kids, and I just see excellence. I'm just as happy for McKenna as I am Bill, and I'm just as happy for the girls who won state at Woodland as I am to see a [Cartersville] freshman like Alex Rios up top. ...
"We love it when somebody from this area does well. They don't have to wear a certain color, because we recognize how hard they work. The girls are phenomenal at Woodland. I've never seen anything like it in this area, and that's the North Georgia area. Those girls aren't just dominant, they're running incredible times."
A year after two Adairsville High boys made the top-10, no athletes from the Tigers or Cass High made the list this season. While Matherne took careful consideration not to speak negatively about either program, he said he does hope to see increased participation at the schools in the coming years.
He thinks Wire2Wire, which will start its own running club on Aug. 1 for all ages and talents, could provide an opportunity to cultivate some of the athletes at the youth level in hopes of building up the programs (and continuing the success at Woodland and Cartersville).
"I would love to see the kids from Cass and Adairsville come out in large number," Matherne said, "and maybe, Wire2Wire can have a little bit of influence on that. ... "Building that tradition is something that maybe starts small, and maybe, we can have a small part in doing that for any school."
If the running club is anything like the annual banquet, it seems the future of Bartow County cross country is only getting brighter. With twice as many sponsors this year (Athlete's Locker, Jordan Scott Salon, McStatts' Printing, New Beginning Signs and Graphics, and Varsity Car Wash) as the 2018 iteration, Tuesday's banquet seemed to be another smashing success.
"It was just a great occasion for many people," Matherne said. "The kids that worked so hard this fall were able to get some recognition they deserve. There were a lot of people there to celebrate their accomplishments.
"Matt Terry and I, we've been thrilled to be able to do it for them. It's one of the things that we are trying to do in our vision at Wire2Wire Running to promote running in this community, celebrate when people do it well and establish a tradition of things like this."