Jackson County freshman runner J.T. Wood ran a 20:27 in his first varsity race Saturday to help the Panthers finish 14th out of 26 varsity teams at the Northeast Georgia Championships.
Wood finished 71st overall, followed closely by Dusty Haralson, who clocked a 20:41 (84th overall), and Tyler Ledford, who ran a 20:49 (92nd overall).
Jonathan Mayfield (21:02, 97th) and Tyler Manculich (21:30, 116th) rounded out the scoring for Jackson County, which has an almost an entirely different roster this year.
With 432 points, Jackson County out-legged region foes Oglethorpe County (458) and Dawson County (462), but finished behind fellow 8-AA schools Elbert County (189), Jefferson (237), Hart County (273), East Jackson (289).
“I feel good about it,” coach Joseph Brubaker said of the race. “I think we are a little bit ahead of where I thought we might be.”
Brubaker noted that Jackson County was missing Nunez, who is expected to contribute this year, and noted efforts of Mayfield, who ran a 21:02 with virtually no training prior.
Jackson County doesn’t have a standout runner but could possibly start building on consistency in the lineup. The Panthers have a few runners within reach of running a sub-20 minute 5K.
“We’re just trying to get a pack of guys who can break 20,” Brubaker said.
The coach notes the parity this year on the team.
“We might have six to seven guys fighting for the top three,” Brubaker said. “I think it’s great to have that kind of competition.”
The boys return to action Thursday at the always-tough Banks County course. The Eagle meet is Sept. 18 at East Jackson.