CONYERS - The Heritage boys cross country team opened its 2009 campaign on a high note Saturday in the Jaguar Invitational at Spalding High School.
For the second straight year, the Patriots captured the overall team title with an impressive performance.
Senior Aaron Worthy led the way for the Patriots, winning the boys race with a time of 17 minutes, 44 seconds.
"Aaron had a great summer and really focused on the 5K distance," Heritage coach Brian Smith said. "He's about a minute faster this year than he was last year at this time. He ran a really strong race, opened up a lead and increased it over the last mile."
The Heritage boys finished with 47 points to beat Warner Robins (60) and Whitewater (61) for the championship.
"It was important for our boys just to show that we've reloaded for this year," Smith said. "We've had some changes in our lineup. We've got big numbers with a lot of veteran and young runners. We're really competing hard with each other."
Freshman Zach Whitten was next for Heritage in ninth place at 19:12 followed by senior Andrew Connors (11th, 19:17), sophomore Victor Beltran (13th, 19:36) and senior Mike Dontfraid (18th, 19:55).
The Rockdale boys finished ninth in the team standings at 251. Sophomore Forest Freeman turned in the Bulldogs' best effort in 42nd place with a time of 22:11.
The Heritage girls finished fourth overall in their race with 102 points. Whitewater was first with 23 followed by Warner Robins at 78 and host Spalding at 80.
Sophomores Simone Worthy and Lena Killingsworth both recorded top-10 individual finishes for the Lady Patriots. Worthy placed eighth with a time of 22:38, while Killingsworth was 10th at 23:47.
Alyssa Clingenpeel (27th, 26:11), Shea Smith (29th, 26.25) and Cate Reach (30th, 26:41) rounded out Heritage's top five.
"It was just good to get out and race somebody other than ourselves," Smith said. "The guys and the girls did a fantastic job."
The Rockdale girls posted a seventh-place finish. Lauren Coursey registered the Lady Bulldogs' top finish in 26th at 26:06.
Emily Boyer (34th, 27:23), Jazzmine Coley (37th, 27:49), Lindsey Geise (40th, 28:39) and Sophia Tuttle (42nd, 28:49) competed Rockdale's top five.
At the Luella Twilight Invitational in McDonough, the Newton boys finished in ninth place.
Jason Moffitt was the top finisher for the Rams in 35th with a time of 18:59
Tyler Ransom (45th, 19:07), Jamal Green (46th, 19:10), Dominique Destafano (52nd, 19:21) and Carl Collins (58th, 19:41) completed the scoring for the Rams.
"Our boys ran well," Newton coach Aaron Robinson said. "I am pleased and see a lot of potential."
The Lady Rams only had two runners in the girls meet. Desiree Hines finished 40th in 25:33, while Riana Carver was right behind in 41st at 25:34.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.