But both Harrison teams can make a case for the titles as well after each squad finished third a year ago. Both Hoya teams bested Walton Sept. 22 at the Alligator Lake Invitational in Lake City, Fla.
The Raiders will see if they can answer back Saturday evening.
“The Harrison boys and girls are probably the favorites based on what they have run so far this season,” Walton coach Travis Gower said. “Both have a very tight pack and should score low points.”
Harrison coach Kent Simmons concurred, especially when he was speaking about the boys team. The Hoyas’ top four do tend to run together and often among the first group of runners to finish.
Ryan Brock, Spencer Borchelt, Dylan Elmy and Adam Watt have been the most consistent for Harrison all season, with Brock leading the way. But Simmons is looking for Jacob Cooper, Jacob McCord and Grayson Rolf to step up on the back end of the starting lineup.
“We run in a pack mentality and it’s all interchangeable,” Simmons said. “Our girls aren’t as pack-oriented as the boys. We’re looking forward (to the county meet) and are anxious to see how we stack up against Walton.”
Kennedy Sorge and Audrey Smith lead the pack for the Lady Hoyas, who have also gotten solid contributions from freshmen Mattie Roundtree and Jennifer Tull. Simmons, however, said there’s more separation between the top half and the bottom half of the Harrison girls’ starting lineup.
The Walton girls, who won back-to-back state titles before settling for second last season, beat county runner-up Lassiter by 62 points a year ago.
Avery Bussjager has emerged as the Lady Raiders’ lead runner this season and is having a solid season, while Christie Sanders has made strides over the last two meets. Madie Paulk, Emily Bridges and Caitlyn McSwigan also continue to run well.
As for the Walton boys, Kenan Farmer will head the starters after finishing fourth in last year’s meet.
Like last year’s county meet, when they placed their top four runners in the top 20, the Raiders will once again count on its depth. Connor Kilch, Miles Greer, Robbie Eisenman and Matt Azar have run well in the pack this season, with freshmen Andrew Singh and Ben Dahlgren also contributing.
Farmer (16 minutes, 9.90 seconds and Bussjager (20:19.90) both won the University of Georgia Invitational on Aug. 31.
“Kenan is our No. 1 runner and should be a threat for the county title,” Gower said. “Avery is very strong and has raced well. Her workouts have been going very well and we look forward to seeing how much further she progresses over the next month.”
The Marietta boys, who finished second by three points to Walton in last year’s meet, graduated six of its top seven runners, including Ben Pleak and Jake Bagwell. Jack Henderson is the lone returning starter for the Blue Devils, but coach Jack Coleman has gotten solid performances from up-and-comers Carlos Torres and Khayvonn Benson this season.
Having a young boys team, Coleman is still organizing his lineup.
“It’s just going to take some time,” he said. “We’re young.”