Jeff Hurndon Photography
Union Grove runner Brandon Cromer will lead the Wolverines in Saturday’s Class AAAAA championship in Carrollton.
It isn’t just coachspeak when Union Grove cross country coach Eric Daugherty says his team is treating Saturday’s state championship meet like another race.
Take a look at the lineup of teams that adorn the Wolverines’ region and you’ll understand why.
Region 5-AAAAA features the state’s first, sixth, seventh and 10th-ranked squads in McIntosh, Starrs Mill, Union Grove, and Ola respectively.
And for Daugherty, that means that whatever quality runners Saturday’s state meet throws at them, it probably won’t be something that his group hasn’t already experienced.
“We’ve run in some top invitationals and our region competition is just as good, if not better, than what you’d see in the state,” Daugherty said. “So it really is just another race for us and we’re looking for them to go out and perform as they have all season.”
Joining Union Grove from the Southern Crescent in the state meet will be Morrow and Eagle’s Landing.
Morrow’s young squad of Cameron Pack, Avery Allsop, Austin Gray, Kelcey Price and Lance Pappillion includes two freshmen, two juniors and a sophomore. They qualified for the state championships by placing fourth in Wednesday’s Region 2-AAAAAA meet.
Eagle’s Landing junior Brian Cato is also hoping to bring some extra momentum to his team on Saturday after coming off a region winning performance last week.
Cato said he and his fellow Golden Eagles runners will race feeling like they have something to prove.
“We’re coming in there with a chip on our shoulders,” Cato said. “We feel like if we can get on the podium, anywhere between one through four, we’ll be happy with any one of those finishes.”
Cato said he knows the state competition is going to be “10 times stronger” than anything he’s faced during regular season meets.
That’s because he, like Daugherty, know that a state championship takes more than one standout runner. And the fact that Daugherty feels his Wolverines have fully embraced that mentality leaves him with good feelings about where his team is heading into the weekend.
“Without a doubt, we have matured as a pack and just running in a pack,” he said. “There’s not the pressure of always depending on one person. Seven guys all work together. When we do that, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Class A: Eagle’s Landing Christian’s Tommy Hamlin finished 13th at the private school championship in Macon last week. He had a time of 16 minutes, 58.1 seconds on the course at Georgia Indrustrial Children’s Home in Macon.