Freshman Worthy leads Lady Patriots to NewRock title

CONYERS - So much for an upset.

Once again, the Heritage Lady Patriots captured their 11th straight area title Monday during the NewRock Cross Country meet at the Georgia International Horse Park.

In fact, Heritage placed four of the top five runners, giving the Lady Patriots an overall team score of 22.

Heritage freshman Simone Worthy placed first with a time of 22 minutes and six seconds.

Rockdale finished second with 70 points, while Eastside took third (86). Rounding out the final three were Salem (115), Newton (125) and Alcovy (129).

"Going into the race I was nervous because they told me I had some really good competition," Worthy said, "but I stayed relaxed and stayed focused. I didn't worry about anything else and ran my race the best I knew how to.

"You can't think about winning or losing. You just have to run how you know you can. Being a freshman (is) a little intimidating, but my team supports me all the way. They don't put any pressure on me to win, and I support them as much as they support me."

Newton's Ameryst Armstead finished second overall with a time of 23:28.

Heritage's Sarah Hayward (third, 24:05), Lena Killingsworth (fourth, 24:09) and Janet Van Heest (fifth, 24:36) rounded out the top five.

"I'm just extremely proud," Heritage coach Brian Smith said. "This is just one stepping stone that we have to go through in September. It's always nice to win against the people you see all the time. We're very proud of them, and they've worked hard for what they've got."

Salem's Shannon Christian took sixth with a time of 24:44. Eastside's Allene Haynie finished seventh (24:46).

Lauren Coursey (eighth) led Rockdale with a time of 25:08. Rounding out the top 10 were Heritage's Kristin Rodgers (ninth, 25:13) and Eastside's Melissa Bender (10th, 25:14).

"I'm very happy about winning the area championship (again)," Worthy said. "From what I've heard, we've always had a pretty good team, and I'm just happy to be a part of it."

Smith said he realized Worthy's potential from her time spent on the track.

"After that I knew she was ready for this," Smith said. "She's handled the pressure great. We have a very tight knit group of girls. They're behind each other's backs, and that's a good feeling as a team."

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.