COVINGTON - After qualifying in their region meets, the Alcovy and Newton boys cross country teams will now face the best in the state Saturday in Carrollton.
The Alcovy boys earned their trip to compete in the Class AAAA meet with a second-place finish in Region 4-AAAA while Newton, which goes to the Class AAAAA meet for the fifth straight time, came in fourth in the Region 2-AAAAA meet.
"To join the other cross country teams from around the state is an honor," Newton coach Aaron Robinson said. "I am happy to be a part of it and try to impart on the runners the great significance that qualifying and participating in the state meet really has. I want them to enjoy it."
Robinson knew there was something special about the boys team after their first meet at the Walton Stage Races.
"I was confident we had the talent to qualify for state. We competed well there against some tough competition," he said.
One of the goals for the Newton team is to improve on last year's 21st-place finish and to shave some times off their average time of 18 minutes, 45 seconds.
If they are to accomplish those goals the team will have to practice hard the week before the race as their fastest average time was 18:45 at the Aubrae Gunderson Invitational; they ran the region meet with a team time of 19:06.
"We will continue to run and train. I'm proud of how our guys have taken to the sport," Robinson said. "They have a lot of pride in what they do and understand what it takes to be the best they can be."
Giving Robinson the confidence that his team can achieve their goals is that they have all been there before and they know what it takes to do well at the state meet.
Raymond Menefee has the lowest personal best with a time of 17:47, followed by Dominique Destafano (18:51), Tyler Ransom (18:28), Bradley Johnston (19:14), Jamal Green (19:05), Jason Moffitt (19:08) and Matt Knight (19:31).
"Having qualified in the past is a great help, as it inspires our kids to continue that tradition," Robinson said.
While Tigers coach Scott Murphy sees the trip as a reward for hard work, he also sees it as a stepping stone in their long-term goal.
"It's rewarding for the student-athletes. As a coach, there are always new goals to plan for and work toward - so another step closer to our long-term goals."
Murphy is not looking to finish in a particular place for his team. Instead, he is hoping that all of his runners set new personal records.
The Alcovy coach plans on doing this by sticking to his annual plan and keeping the runners fresh while working to hold their peak.
Running for the Tigers are Damontae Ivey (18:50.38), Joshua Holcombe (19:00.88), Vincent Bond (18:44.84), Ahmad Crawford (19:23.11), Dakota Papke (19:30.92), Jay deRojas (20:03.73), Felipe Saldana (20:23.78) and alternate Rahu Bannister (22:04.48).
The Tigers are heading into the state meet with an average team time of 19:06.
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.