After complete domination by Cartersville -- which won all four races in 2010, including the junior varsity races -- the county meet, hosted by Cartersville at Gatewood Park, felt much more competitive with many of the top places being decided by just a few seconds.
Roger Herrera came away victorious in the varsity boys race as Cartersville took four of the top seven spots for its second consecutive win. Woodland snatched three of the top seven spots, led by varsity girls winner Ashley Barrera who helped her team to its third county victory in four years.
"I thought for them to run so strong on such a difficult course was a testament to their will and determination to defend their title, and I believe that they have a lot of experience that was put to use and they had some good competition," Cartersville coach David Matherne said. "Nothing makes the kids in the county run harder than lining up against each other. We have a good tradition of good teams in this county."
"They were a cohesive group," Matherne continued about his team, which also had Lawson Crowe, Zach Cravey and Troy Hickom place amongst the medalists. "It's hard to single anybody out as being stellar because they were all stellar today. ... I can't say enough about how hard the guys have been working ... and this is something that goes back to the summer. They've been working hard since then and they deserved to have a good result today."
Cartersville's girls were a couple of spots away from another title.
"The girls have been pretty banged up here lately. We got a lot of folks nursing injuries. That made for a tough race on a tough course. That would have been tough for anybody. We've got as many knee braces as we have shoes on the team," Matherne said. "I was pleased that we came with that drive that it takes to do well and in my view, they did as much as I could ask them to do. They didn't back down. They worked throughout the whole course."
"It was just a tough day for us. It was a tough day for everyone. ... I hope everybody in the county doesn't hate me now that I've made 'em run this course," Cartersville's coach joked. "I hate to see [the trophy] go, but [Woodland] earned it."
For Woodland coach Rob Forbes, who inherited the girls team this year in addition to his duties with the boys, Tuesday was a great moment.
"It's kind of special for me because this is the first time I get to coach 'em and they win," Forbes said. "We ran really well. ... They just worked hard. Anytime somebody got in front of 'em, they worked hard to get back in front of 'em."
Barrera was joined by teammates Melissa Davila and Rachel Mez as a medalist, and Catie Cameron finished 10th, a few spots away from earning a medal.
Logan Rempe earned the lone medal amongst the boys, accomplishing a goal of placing in the top five with his fourth-place finish.
Forbes said it was hard to determine how well his runners did based on time alone since the hilly course made for slower times.
"They're young, but they ran pretty good," he said. "Two guys passed [Logan] and then he passed one guy back. ... Brandon Rutledge was 14th. ... He had a pretty solid race."
David Prosser, Jake Roberson and Andrew Morgan followed Rutledge on the team.
"They ran together pretty solid. It's just gonna take time to get faster," Forbes added. "They were happy that they finished third because they didn't want to finish last ... and actually Adairsville had a pretty good team."
Prior to the county meet, Woodland had run at the Ridge Ferry Invitational last Thursday and at the Darlington Cross Country Festival last Saturday. Forbes said the plan was to get most of the team's meets out of the way ahead of time, and he did not think it had much affect on either team.
Coming in behind Woodland on the girls' side but ahead of its boys was Cass, which got runner-up finishes from both of its teams and had three runners medal overall -- Jaison Morning for the boys and Savannah Casey and Savannah Hardin for the girls.
"I thought we did a great job today," Cass boys coach Michael Durham said. "I was extremely pleased with 'em. They did exactly what I wanted 'em to do. Cartersville was just better than us."
Durham instructed his runners to go all out, and Morning, who eventually placed third, certainly did as he hung tough with Herrera for a couple of miles.
"My own belief is if you don't go out and see where you're at, you never know how good you can be. ... That's kind of what they did," the Cass coach said. "They've been working extremely hard and they understand we have a chance to run some pretty good times as long as we work hard."
Of Morning and his team, Durham said, "He's got some ability. I think all seven of 'em are gonna run some fast times this year. We just gotta keep working."
Though Cass still may not have been able to catch Cartersville, which its coach acknowledged, it did lose a couple of its top runners during the race. Logan Sorenson pulled a hamstring and Jordan Morning suffered a cramp, both injuries occurring around the two-mile mark.
"They were my No. 2 and No. 3 runners," Durham said. "They had a shot at getting in the top seven."
Cass' girls barely missed out getting three girls in the top seven, capping a strong performance by the team, which finished ahead of last year's champion Cartersville.
"I thought the girls did extremely well with a third-, fourth- and eighth-place finish," Cass girls coach David Rawlins said. "[It was] about as good as we expected to do today."
Of Hannah Hood's near-medal performance, Rawlins said, "It actually came down to a kick. She passed three people the last 400 meters." Cartersville's Kirsten Horstman was able to "outkick" Hood at the end, though.
"I was proud of her that she at least went after it, which was good," Rawlins said.
Many of the teams and runners displayed good effort throughout the meet.
"Everybody ran a good race," Durham said in regard to all the local teams. "It was a very challenging course."
"The hills were harder than Carrollton, many of them were saying today, and I would concur with that. ... I think the footing was much different and that made it harder," Matherne said. "The folks at Gatewood Park really did a fine job of allowing us to have it there. They graded a lot of the dirt hills. They mowed the grass. ... I appreciate their help and all the parents that helped."
Below is a list of medalists as well as team results.
First -- Roger Herrera, Cartersville, 18:43; Second -- Lawson Crowe, Cartersville, 19:28; Third -- Jaison Morning, Cass, 19:29; Fourth -- Logan Rempe, Woodland, 19:30; Fifth -- Zach Cravey, Cartersville, 19:31; Sixth -- Troy Hickom, Cartersville, 20:06; Seventh -- Trent Gentry, Excel Christian, 20:09.
Varsity Boys Teams
First -- Cartersville, 23; Second -- Cass, 47; Third -- Woodland, 83; Fourth -- Adairsville, 102; Fifth -- Excel Christian, 120.
First -- Ashley Barrera, Woodland, 22:30; Second -- Emily Sexauer, Adairsville, 22:58; Third -- Savannah Casey, Cass, 23:39; Fourth -- Savannah Hardin, Cass, 24:08; Fifth -- Melissa Davila, Woodland, 24:10; Sixth -- Rachel Mez, Woodland, 24:37; Seventh -- Kirsten Horstman, Cartersville, 24:41.
Varsity Girls Teams
First -- Woodland, 33; Second -- Cass, 59; Third -- Cartersville, 61; Fourth -- Adairsville, 83.
First -- Hunter Myrick, Cartersville, 21:10.14; Second -- Tanner Davis, Cartersville, 21:10.54; Third -- Daniel Nally, Cartersville, 21:12.
JV Boys Teams
First -- Cartersville, 17; Second -- Woodland, 100; Third -- Cass, 112; Fourth -- Adairsville, 133.
First -- Amber Fuller, Woodland, 25:14; Second -- Meagan Gudger, Woodland, 26:58; Third -- Dollieteah Strickland, Woodland, 27:09.
JV Girls Team
First -- Woodland, 17; Second -- Cartersville, 44; Third -- Cass, 112.