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Gators take home third at state meet
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    MACON – All members of the Bulloch Academy boys’ cross country team notched personal best times as the Gator squad finished third in the Class AA state cross-country championships Saturday at the Georgia Children’s Home course.
    “I challenged them,” said BA head coach Beth Burke. “The varsity girls ran first and they knocked their times down. I told the boys that and it seemed to motivate them.”
    Burke and assistant coach Deborah Carico timed their runners as they came across the finish line so all times, both varsity and junior varsity, are unofficial. Official times and places will be sent to Burke on Monday by host school First Presbyterian. Also, all varsity squads were trimmed at the meet as only the best seven runners from each team could compete. In a cross-country race, the placements of a team’s top five runners count for a team score.
Bulloch sophomore John Manack clocked an 18:31 to finish ninth out of 110 runners and earn an All-State plaque. Eighth grader Phillip Brunson was 14th with an 18:50 for the Region 2-AA champions.
“It was kind of funny because Phillip came up to me and said, “Coach, I just skipped right over the 19s,” Burke said with a grin. “His previous best had been 20:05. I was very, very excited with both John and Phillip’s performances. That’s the first time any of our kids have been in the 18s.”
Junior Matt Williamson was 19th with a 19:35 while classmate Ben Stephens clocked a 20:12 for 31st. Both eighth grader Will Johnson and sophomore Troy Poulin finished with 20:20s. Sophomore Chan Newton finished with a 23:31.
“Last year we were seventh or eighth as a team and John was 19th individually,” said Burke. “I’m extremely proud of them. We have a young squad and they are fired up about running. The serious runners were asking about getting back to work on Monday. We’ll try to stay together as a team in the off season and run some local road races.”
The Heritage School of Newnan won the Class AA championship with a score of 53 while Pinecrest Academy from Cumming was second with 64. Bulloch was third with 82 points and Arlington Christian of Fairburn was fourth with 128 points. Individually, Grant Stouffer of Brookwood School in Thomasville won the race and set a new state record with a blistering 16:01.
The junior varsity girls’ squad took second among Class AA teams and fourth overall in the 189-runner race. Again, times and placements are unofficial.
Erin O’Sullivan was 14th with an 11:08 while Haley Burke was 17th with an 11:12. Madeline Manack posted an 11:20 for 22nd, Emily Morgan had an 11:23 for 24th and Maddie Burke finished with an 11:38 for 30th. Other finishers for the JV girls were Laura Minick (12:10), Annsley Lomax (12:12), Kaylee Sheppard (13:57), Lainey Hanna (15:07) and Amanda Ellis (19:16).
    Junior Kate Martin led the BA varsity girls to a ninth-place finish as she clocked a 25:41 for her personal best. Other Lady Gator finishers were Whitney Hinson (27:45), Kate Anna Akins (27:52), Audrey Mallard (31:00) and Laura Stubbs (31:04).