Evans' Amanda Griffin finishes in eighth place in the girls varsity cross country race.
Photo by Kristopher WellsEven a wrong turn couldn't keep Katie Almond from crossing the finish line in first place, a full minute and 33 seconds in front of her nearest competitor.
"I think it made me go faster because I was mad at myself," Almond said of her wrong turn.
Almond and the South Gwinnett High School girls cross country team took home the first-place trophy in the ninth annual Columbia County Invitational Cross Country Meet at Harlem High School on Saturday.
South Gwinnett's girls totaled 45 points to beat out second-place Greenbrier High School's 59 points. Evans High School came in third with 68, followed by the Academy of Richmond County with 72 and Burke County High School with 93.
"Katie ran an awesome race," South Gwinnett girls coach Robin Porter said. "We had planned out her splits accordingly, and she almost (got a personal record) from her best time last year. She took a little bit of a wrong turn, so she could have gone a little bit faster. I was real, real pleased with her strong finish."
Columbia County Invitational
Top Columbia County finishers
Girls: 2. Bailey Mahoney (Lakeside) 20:40; 5. Kaycee Quarles (Greenbrier) 21:58; 6. Addison Price (Greenbrier) 22:23; 8. Amanda Griffin (Evans) 22:48; 10. Karen Newlin (Evans) 22:53.
Boys: 2. Miguel Mota (Greenbrier) 16:48; 3. Tyler Warren (Greenbrier) 17:08; 7. Steven Lowe (Evans) 18:15; 8. Boston Blake (Greenbrier) 18:19; 10. David Zampini (Greenbrier) 18:28.
Almond crossed the finish line with a 19:07 to defend her Invitational title on the five-kilometer course. Lakeside High School's Bailey Mahoney came in second with a 20:40, followed by Richmond Academy's Dominique Ross in third with a 21:45.
But South Gwinnett didn't have only their girls' team in the spotlight. Ryley Miller overcame a last-mile cramp to win the boy's race with a 16:25.
A pair of Greenbrier runners rounded out the top three: Miguel Mota placed second with a time of 16:48, and Tyler Warren crossed the line in third with a 17:08.
"I saw (Miller) the whole race," Mota said. "I was just trying to catch up to him, but he's pretty quick."
Miller's first place finish wasn't enough to pull out a South Gwinnett sweep of the meet. Greenbrier's boys took home the team trophy with 43 points. South Gwinnett took second with 53. Richmond Academy, who was missing two key runners due to a conflicting soccer game, finished third overall with 85 points. Evans placed fourth in the meet with 89.
Burke County and Lakeside tied with 128 points, but because of the higher finish of Burke County's No. 6 runner, they took fifth place overall. Seventh place went to Harlem with 152 points.
"Very exciting," Greenbrier coach Kati Smallwood said of the boys' victory. "We've been talking about it all week and really looking forward to this meet."
Last year, the results were flip-flopped, as the Greenbrier boys placed second to South Gwinnett, which posted a perfect score of 15.
That made Saturday's success that much sweeter for the Pack.
"I'm pretty happy with everybody's times. Everyone came out and tried hard," Mota said. "We have a young and strong team."
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