With four runners finishing in the top 20 — including two in the top 10 — the Jackson County girls’ cross country team strode to a runner-up finish in the region and earned another trip back to state.
The team, which finished fourth in the state last year, will compete in the Class AA championships this Saturday in Carrollton. This is the program’s fourth consecutive trip to state.
“I told them to treat it as a celebration of what they’ve accomplished this year and maybe that will take some of the pressure off,” coach Joseph Brubaker said. “I think it can be a good day for us.”
At region, Rachel Pasko ran a 20:44 to finish third, while Sydney Baird finished with a 21:44 to place seventh. Maddie Newton (22:33) and Michayla Scollon (22:50) also finished in the top 20, placing 13th and 17th respectively. Freshman Ashley Burton (23:23) rounded out the Jackson County scoring with a 22nd-place finish.
“Rachel has been solid all year,” Brubaker said. “And we have a lot of natural ability with those other girls.”
North Oconee won the region title, unseating Jackson County as 8-AA champions. While Brubaker has happy with the runner-up finish, there was some disappointment that the Lady Panthers didn’t repeat. That, however, didn’t tarnish Jackson County’s over-arching accomplishment.
“We couldn’t be disappointed with second,” Brubaker said.
In the boys’ race, Jackson County finished last out of 13 teams, led by J.T. Wood’s 54th place finish (19:40). Others scoring were Tyler Henderson (65th, 20:31), Anthony Allen (67th, 20:36), Bryce Hughes (71st, 20:45) and Danny Butler (76th, 21:34).
The girls’ team’s fourth-straight trip to state is perhaps a first at Jackson County. Brubaker said it’s likely that no other team at the school — except for the wrestling team possibly —has reached state that many years consecutively.
Jackson County doesn’t have any specific goals at state once they get there, other to run its best race of the season and finish as one of the top public schools at the event (powerhouse Class AA private schools claimed the top three spots at state last year).
“I just want to represent the region well,” Brubaker said.