CARROLLTON -- Sully Shelton and his Harrison teammates came out on top Friday morning, claiming the individual and team championships in the Class AAAAAA state meet.
It was the first team championship, as well first individual title, for the Harrison boys. It was the third cross country team title overall for the school, whose girls team won state titles in 2000 and ’01.
“This is a big day for our kids and our program, because we have been working hard for so many years,” Harrison co-coach Kent Simmons said. “To have them do this on this day and to race well, I’m so excited. The kids ran great. They all contributed, they all made an important impact.”
It didn’t come easy for Harrison, however, as the Hoyas scored 52 points to edge out defending state champion Pope by only four points.
“Pope had a great race today,” Simmons said. “They ran really well. We had to run our best to beat them today.”
Cambridge (127) and Alpharetta (156) joined Harrison and Pope on the awards podium. Allatoona (264) finished ninth.
Shelton won his first individual state title after placing fourth last year. The junior crossed the finish line with a time of 16 minutes, 11.41 seconds to win by 14 seconds over Sam Rich of Lakeside-Evans (16:24.72).
“It’s a great feeling,” said Shelton, who also won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the state track and field meet last spring. “I’m super excited. I never won a cross country state championship before. That’s always been one of my goals, so it was nice to go out there and finally get it done.”
Pope's Cole Heron (16:37.10) and Will Brown (16:37.13) finished third and fourth respectively, while Harrison’s Noah Connelly (seventh, 16:48.32), Pope’s KC Heron (16:50.89) and Harrison’s Kaden McVey (16:51.28) also earned spots on the awards podium with top-10 finishes.
In the girls race, Allatoona achieved its best state finish by coming in second. The Lady Buccaneers scored 114 points to fall behind Cambridge’s 105.
Still, it was a better-than-expected outcome for Allatoona coach Patrick Parsons.
“It was a surprise today,” Parsons said. “What we were hoping for was at least an opportunity to fight for a podium spot, but to come away with second with such a great, talented young team that we’ve got is amazing.”
Pope (116) also placed on the podium in third place, along with Johns Creek (130). Harrison (161) finished sixth.
Allatoona’s Kelsey Grass (eighth, 19:57.66) and Harrison’s Anna Windom (10th, 20:06.67) were the lone Cobb finishers in the top 10.
Richmond Hill's Kayla Gholar won the individual title with a time of 18:27.69, besting two-time defending champion Makena Gates of Creekview (18:49.98).
The state meet will conclude Saturday with local teams competing in the Class A private-school (boys at 8 a.m., girls at 8:45 a.m.) and Class AAAAAAA (boys at 9:30 a.m., girls at 10:15 a.m.) championships.