The Jackson County cross country teams would have preferred a more laid-back start to the season, but inclement weather changed those plans.
With this past Saturday’s meet with Buford rained out, Jackson County will now debut in the large-scale, 31-team Northeast Georgia Championships (NEGA Championships) this Saturday at Athens Christian School.
The NEGA will feature the top teams in the area and beyond, with schools as far away as Augusta running in the field. The event includes middle school, junior varsity, varsity and championship races.
Though some Panthers and Lady Panthers will run in the 3K junior varsity races, plenty will be pitted against tough varsity competition.
Senior Brittany Aikens returns to defend her championship in the NEGA varsity girls’ race last year, winning by a comfortable 1:20 margin with a time of 19:54. The Lady Panthers — who are aiming for a region title this year — welcome a few freshmen to the fold, however, so Saturday’s event will be an interesting first meet for those newcomers.
“We’ll just see how they do in a 5K,” coach Jospeh Brubaker said.
The boys’ team is almost entirely new and doesn’t have a great deal of 5K experience.
“Some of them will get thrown into the fire pretty quick,” Brubaker said.
Though running in such a large meet may be a bit nerve racking for the newer Jackson County runners, it should serve as a good gauge for both the boys’ and girls’ squads.
“It’s a good course … It should be a good measuring stick,” Brubaker said. “I’m a little concerned about the limited training we have going in.”
The varsity girls’ race starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by the boys at 9 a.m. The junior varsity boys’ race begins at 9:30 a.m., followed by the junior varsity girls at 9:40 a.m.
Jackson County won’t run anyone in the championship races that begin at 10:05 a.m. (girls) and 10:40 a.m. (boys). Middle school races follow at 11:15 a.m. (boys) and 11:20 a.m. (girls). The event concludes with the awards ceremony at 11:45 a.m.
Brubaker expects his runners’ adrenaline to be flowing when the starting gun fires Saturday.
“I’m sure they’ll be pretty nervous seeing all those people at the starting line,” Brubaker said. “But it’s going to be fun.”