But not all was lost for the Lady Raiders.
Avery Bussjager got ahead early and stretched her lead before sealing an individual state title with a time of 19 minutes, 4.20 seconds.
Bussjager’s victory helped Walton finish fourth with 186 points, behind champion Peachtree Ridge (119), Brookwood (131) and Marietta (151).
“It’s been a while since we had a Walton runner on top,” Walton coach Travis Gower said. “I’m excited.”
Bussjager needed to shake off Marietta’s Mary Jeanne Assinzo in the third mile to pull away. Assinzo, meanwhile, later held off Brookwood’s Lauren Brennan to finish second in 19:13.48.
Bussjager was only inches in front during the first mile before switching gears in the second. Assinzo and Brannan pushed her well into the third mile before she finally put herself at a safe distance.
“After the second mile, (Assinzo) was pushing me really hard,” Bussjager said. “I used that as motivation to push my pace and keep my lead. I also tried to use the hills to my advantage. That definitely helped.”
Beyond Bussjager, Walton didn’t have their best day keeping up with the front pack. Christie Sanders was the next-best finisher, coming in 33rd in 20:29.59. Katie Sanders was 43rd in 20:46.98, and Madie Paulk was 48th in 20:55.64.
Bussjager wasn’t the only individual state champion from Cobb County.
Kell’s Logan Poteet clinched the Class AAAAA boys title, staving off Lakeside-DeKalb’s Davis Stockwell during the first 2 miles before winning with a time of 16:13.38.
Poteet said he was “running on empty and had to put it in neutral” in the third mile, but he got through it.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world right now,” he said. “I’ve been running since I was little, and this is what I’ve been working on for the last 10 years.”
Pope’s Ashley Kehoe was vying for an individual championship in the girls AAAAA race, but she couldn’t keep up with the eventual champion, Northview’s Lindsay Billings of Northview. Dunwoody’s Alex Cameron ran by Kehoe during the second mile, leaving this year’s Cobb County champion to settle for third in 19:52.27.
Kennesaw Mountain’s Alex Dunlap had the potential of vying for the individual championship in the boys AAAAAA race, but an illness kept him from being full-strength, and he ended up 66th overall in 17:46.23.
“He had a cold,” Kennesaw Mountain coach John Schafer said. “He finished the race with fluid in his lungs and went to the (medical) tent afterwards. He couldn’t breathe.”
The Mustangs went on to finish 14th overall.
Assinzo’s runner-up finish was key in the Marietta girls taking third. The Lady Blue Devils have been reliant on their top three runners, including Assinzo, and they came through once again. Rebecca Dow took ninth in 19:41.40, and Kayla Dawson was 18th in 19:54.77.
The Marietta girls finishing third was a significant improvement from 15th last year, but the boys were an even greater surprise, finishing fifth after graduating almost the entire starting lineup that was second in Class AAAAAA last year.
Jack Henderson, the lone returning, led the Blue Devils on Saturday by finishing ninth in 16:44.26, while freshman Ben Patterson was 20th in 17:10.43. If sophomore Khayvonn Benson hadn’t suffered a stress fracture during the race, Marietta may have finished higher than fifth.
While the Marietta boys produced a strong outcome, it was the Harrison boys who led the Cobb County teams.
The Hoyas matched Peachtree Ridge with 121 points, but the Lions won the tiebreaker on account of their sixth runner finishing ahead of the Hoyas’.
Ryan Brock finished eighth with a time of 16:41.26 to lead Harrison. Jacob Cooper (18th, 17:09.19), Dylan Ermy (25th, 17:16.43) and Spencer Borchelt (30th, 17:22.53) also contributed.
“We set up a goal of finishing in the top five, and we were in the top four,” Harrison coach Kent Simmons said. “We’ve never been to the podium before, and it was great for our guys to step up and get that trophy.”
The Walton boys also finished in the top 10, finishing ninth. Kenan Farmer was 11th overall in 16:48.96.
In the AAAAAA girls race, Harrison was eighth off the strength of Audrey Smith, who finished 20th in 20:05.31. Kennedy Sorge chipped in with a 27th-place time of 20:22.33.
Hillgrove was 18th behind Claire Warren, who finished 14th (19:48.55). North Cobb’s Tyra Holloway was 40th in 20:42.36, and the Lady Warriors were 20th overall.
Kehoe’s showing in Class AAAAA helped Pope finish 10th overall. Brittany Powell was the only other Lady Greyhound to crack the top 50, finishing 42nd in 21:23.36.
Whitefield Academy’s Robby Keough finished second in the Class A private school boys race, with a time of 17:01.25. He was unable to keep up with Galloway’s Reilly Friedman, who finished more than 31 seconds faster.
Mount Paran Christian’s Joey Carr was fourth in 17:16.23.
North Cobb Christian’s Breck Jones was the top local finisher in the girls race, finishing 12th (21:04.16).