CONYERS - The Heritage boys cross country team did something it had never done before in the Region 8-AAAA Championship on Saturday at the Georgia International Horse Park - win a region title.
What's more, the Heritage boys and girls extended their streak of consecutive state meet appearances to 11. The Lady Patriots earned their spot with a fourth-place finish in the girls race.
The state Cross Country championship is Nov. 8 in Carrollton.
The Heritage boys collected their first region championship during coach Brian Smith's tenure by taking the top four finishers in the boys race.
Senior Jake Hudson captured the individual region championship with a time of 17 minutes, 28.60 seconds for the Patriots. Darius Calhoun (17:35.16), Brandon Harrison (17:37.15) and Aaron Worthy (17:41.78) completed the Patriots' top four sweep.
Zach Landy rounded out the Heritage top five in 13th at 18:40.22.
"The guys all season long have just been running tremendous, and today was just a bold statement to all the hard work they've done," Smith said. "They stuck together all season through all the hard speed workouts, and it's all paid off. They went one, two, three, four (in the race), and then we got some real gutsy performances from our fifth, sixth and seventh runners.
"I think everybody is real satisfied right now, but you know that the state meet is ultimately what you're judged on. We're looking to have a good showing out in Carrollton next Saturday."
The Patriots secured the easy win with 22 points followed by state-qualifiers Habersham Central (75), Winder-Barrow (78) and Loganville (88).
Clarke Central was sixth at 111 followed by Apalachee (144), Salem (214), Cedar Shoals (228) and Madison County (235). Rockdale did not have enough runners to post a team score.
Monroe Area's Spencer Cape earned an individual berth in the state meet by finishing fifth in the boys race.
In the girls race, the Lady Patriots extended their state meet streak, despite fielding a young and inexperienced squad.
Freshman Simone Worthy was Heritage's top finisher in 11th at 22:30.97 followed by freshman Lena Killingsworth (17th, 22:52.70), freshman Jamara Dye (18th, 23:16.89), senior Sarah Hayward (19th, 23:22.70) and senior Erin Tarr (40th, 24:54.19).
"For our girls, the goal was to make a trip to Carrollton, and that's all we focused on this week," Smith said. "We have a pretty inexperienced team, and they got it done today. So hopefully, we'll be able to step up and run even stronger at state. We're just proud that they kept our tradition going."
Loganville won the event with 35 points, edging second-place Winder-Barrow by eight points. Clarke Central took third with 95, while Heritage was fourth at 103.
Habersham Central was fifth at 129 followed by Cedar Shoals (168), Apalachee (191), Salem (211) and Rockdale (229).
Clarke Central's Claire Rosemond claimed the individual region championship with a time of 20:06.57.
Salem junior Shannon Christian produced the top local individual finish in the girls race, claiming 10th with a time of 22:25.81.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.