Hard work and dedication to a grueling sport that few view as fun has paid off for the Bulloch Academy boys’ cross-country team.
Five BA runners finished in the Top 10 of the GISA Region 2-AA cross-country championships to win the school’s first-ever varsity boys’ region title Monday in Dublin. The school’s cross-country program is only in its fourth year of existence.
John Manack claimed second place in the 3.2-mile race while Phillip Brunson was third, Will Johnson was fourth, Matt Williamson was fifth and Ben Stephens was 10th. Manack posted a time of 19:54 to claim the region runner-up medal. Brunson clocked a 20:05, Johnson had a 20:50, Williamson came in at 20:57 and Stephens crossed the line at 21:48. Frederica’s Brian Remler won the race with a 19:35.
“How can you not be pleased with that,” said BA head coach Beth Burke, whose squad won by 29 points. “I was more pleased with their times though. Almost all of them knocked seconds off the previous bests. Our goal all season has been to improve on their times.”
The top six runners, Remler, Manack, Brunson, Johnson, Williamson and Frederica’s Adam Higgins were also named All-Region.
The Bulloch boys dominated their region opponents during the season, winning six meets, and placed high in four others which featured runners who train on hilly terrain.
“The varsity boys have been working extremely hard,” said Burke, who was named region boys’ coach of the year. “They are very self motivated and dedicated to the sport. While cross country is a team sport, runners are competing more with themselves. It takes self-discipline to be a runner. The only way to get better is to push yourself in practice.”
Burke thinks her guys have a good shot at winning the school’s first-ever state title. The Class AA state race will be held Saturday at the hilly course at the Georgia Children’s Home in Macon.
“The guys like that course,” said Burke. “We have run it twice this season and we’ve had some pretty good times. The cumulative team time which won state last year at that course was 1.38:00. Our time at region was around 1.42:00. We have a chance.”
Other Gator finishers at region were Troy Poulin (12th), John Hunter Bowen (23rd), Taylor Morgan (29th), Tom Rich (30th) and Jonathan Williamson (37th).
The junior varsity girls’ team, which also dominated its opponents this season, almost achieved a perfect score en route to winning its second consecutive region title.
Erin O’Sullivan won the meet while Madeline Manack was second, Haley Burke took third, Emily Morgan was fourth and Annsley Lomax was eighth. The Lady Gators’ score was 18 while a perfect score is 15 (finishers in the top 5 places). O’Sullivan clocked a 10:56 on the 1.6-mile course for the victory. Manack had an 11:05, Burke finished in 11:14, Morgan came in at 11:29 and Lomax crossed the line at 12:08.
“The junior varsity girls are really incredible,” said Burke. “They are fun to watch. I think Erin was third overall, including the boys. Maddie, Haley and Emily were right there too.”
Other finishers were Maddie Burke (10th), Kittie Lee (11th), Lainey Hanna (28th) and Amanda Ellis (31st).
Burke was especially proud of the runners who rounded out the top spots of both squads.
“On both the varsity boys’ and JV girls’ teams, the top four runners are pretty consistent,” she said. “It’s that fifth runner that’s the key to winning a championship or not. Ben Stephens and Annsley Lomax really stepped it up Monday.”
In the varsity girls’ race, Susanna McKee led the BA ladies with a third-place finish. McKee clocked a 23:49. Frederica’s Haley Watkins won the region girls’ title with a 23:04 and led the Lady Knights to the team title. McKee was named All Region.
Other Lady Gator finishers were Laura Minick (12th), Kate Anna Akins (17th), Whitney Hinson (22nd), Audrey Mallard (23rd), Laura Stubbs (24th) and Millie Lee (25th).
The Bulloch Academy varsity boys cross country team won its first-ever GISA Region 2-AA championship Monday in Dublin. Pictured are (front row, left to right): Chan Newton, Will Johnson, John Manack, Taylor Morgan, Tom Rich and Phillip Brunson. Back row: Head coach Beth Burke, Matt Williamson, Ben Stephens, Jonathan Williamson, Troy Poulin, John Hunter Bowen and Assistant Coach Deborah Carico.