Augusta Prep cross country coach Mike Burley's speech to his team before its state meet didn't deal with individuals his runners would have to beat.
He gave his team the names and jersey colors of what he thought would be the Cavaliers' toughest competition and told his runners to stay ahead of them.
Augusta Prep's girls squad did, edging Stratford Academy by a point to win the Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA state meet on Oct. 27. The Cavaliers' boys team finished runner-up to First Presbyterian Day School.
"When we had our little prep meeting, I said there are certain people they were going to have to hang with and beat at the end," Burley said. "With cross country, every position counts. All the girls had to do their portion and push through what they think is their personal pain barrier to a new level. I think they all did that."
The close margin of the girls meet had Burley and Cavaliers athletic director Tom Holodak sweating the outcome.
The two men had an imprecise scoring system in place. They stood at different parts of the track and counted the runners as they ran past. Burley had the Cavaliers as one-point winners. Holodak had them winning by two. But nobody was sure until the results were announced.
"At the end of the race, we were freaking out because we weren't sure," Cavaliers senior Collier McLeod said. "It was rather nerve-racking."
The Cavaliers got a boost the latter half of the season from eighth-grader Amanda Murphy, who was moved to the high school level after Burley noticed her dominating middle school competition.
Murphy finished second overall in her first GISA state meet, finishing in 19:25 and setting an Augusta Prep record.
She beat her previous personal best by a minute.
"I could tell she was so good," Burley said. "She was killing kids in middle school races."
McLeod finished fifth overall with a time of 20:57. Teammate Maryclaire Regan also finished in the top 10. Her time of 21:12 was good enough for seventh.
The Cavaliers' boys squad finished 40 points off the pace set by state champion First Presbyterian. Augusta Prep standout Jim Hull finished third overall, running in 17:22.
Burley said he thought Hull had a good shot to be state champion, but that Hull wasn't feeling well. He also said Hull had been limited most of the season with a knee injury.
"The first mile was all right," Hull said. "The last 2 miles, I really struggled the whole time. I don't know if it was the cold weather or what, but I wasn't feeling too good."
Lions compete at SCISA meet
Augusta Christian's Jaiden Brandt was the highest finisher for the Lions at the South Carolina Independent Schools Association Class AAA meet on Oct. 18.
Brandt finished in 17:50.99 and picked up eight points. Augusta Christian's boys team finished eighth at the meet, held at Heathwood Hall in Columbia.
The Lions' girls team was led by Kelsey Dingle, who placed 13th with a time of 21:13.27. The team finished seventh.
St. Joseph's won the boys meet with 50 points and a total time of 1:29:49. Its girls' squad was also state champions with 22 points.
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