One in, one out
Eastside boys reach state meet, girls fall short

ATHENS - Eastside's Sam Johnson overcame a broken foot over the summer to finish the Region 8-AAA cross country meet in fourth place overall to help put the boys in the Class AAA state meet for the first time in school history with a fourth place team finish Thursday at Athens Christian.

Unfortunately, the girls will be on the sidelines cheering as they missed out on their chance by two points to finish fifth.

Johnson, a junior, came in fourth place running the course in 17 minutes, 52 seconds. Making it to state is a big accomplishment the junior after barely missing out on running in the state meet last year.

Even though finishing in the top six was still not really in his thoughts.

"I was hoping to take top 10," he said "Last year I missed it by one place. I came in seventh and the top six go."

An injury during the offseason almost cost him as he broke his foot on a diving board. Even though his foot was broken, he didn't realize it as he continued to participate in a baseball tournament playing though the pain.

"At first I didn't even know it was broken. I went to Panama City to play in a baseball tournament and played nine games on it," Johnson said. "I've been working on getting back in shape all season. While it was broken I was riding my bike and swimming a little bit. Once I got the cast off I just had to get in shape the best I could."

The under-18 minute mark was the fist time he has done it this season but it wasn't good enough to take the top spot. That belonged to Oconee County's Andree Ely who came in first with a time of 17:07.

Other top six finishers included Elbert County's Chris Graham (17:29) and Ethan Alexander (17:40), Oconee County's Austin Jones (17:54) and Morgan County's Chris Clyde (18:01).

Also putting Eastside in the state meet were Kyle Yeomans (18th - 19:01), Michael Hammock (22 - 19:14), Michael Johnson-Weeks (31st - 19:22) and Mikey Rue (34th - 19:43).

Also running but not scoring were Dalton Bender (20:06) and Jason Croom (22:30).

"I'm really ecstatic for the boys. Dalton Bender was an excellent leader this year and he didn't let the dream die," Eastside coach Leah Carlisle said. "It feels really, really great. I'm so excited for them and proud of them. It was a big hump we had to get over. Now that we've done it we can raise the bar, which is the Eastside motto."

Oconee County won the region meet with 37 points followed by Elbert County (53) and Franklin County (108).

The Eastside girls made a good run to return to the state meet but came up just short, scoring 106 points to come in fifth. Region newcomers Archer and Mountain View finished third and fourth with 103 and 104 points.

"It's hard being so close because one or two people could have gotten in front of one or two others," Carlisle said. "But that's how it goes."

Oconee County, with three of its five runners coming in the top six, won the meet with 50 points with Jackson County being the runner up with 74 points.

"It's hard because they were running really well at the beginning of the year then we had some injuries. I thought they were really going to pull it out," Carlisle said.

Blakely Smith came in 10th overall with a time of 23:38 followed by Mariah Parker (14th - 23:58), Naomi Denby (15th - 23:59), Melissa Howard (33rd - 26:02) and Alle Haynie (34th - 26:05).

Running but not scoring were Deanna Kaluta (26:08) and Taylor Davis (29:31).

"Mariah Parker had a good race today, she placed second for Eastside. She's a senior and come off strong," Carlisle said. "I'm really proud of her."

Oconee County's runners finished first third and fifth with Ann Centner becoming region medalist with a time of 19:23.

The other Oconee County runners were Erica Brooks (21:54) and Katie Souther (22:38).

Also coming in the top six were Jacson County's Brittany Akins (19:50), Archer's Paige Selent (22:17) and Mountain View's Christine Gaunt (23:08).