Worthy of praise
Heritage's Worthy wins fifth straight; Pats take title

CONYERS - When the race was on the line, Heritage's Aaron Worthy made his move at the perfect time.

The senior kept his individual winning streak intact Saturday, passing Habersham Central's Brian Elder in the final 200 yards to claim his fifth straight win of the season in the Aubrae Gunderson Invitational at the Georgia International Park.

Worthy also helped the Heritage boys claim the team title in the red division varsity boys race. He posted a time of 17 minutes, 30.64 seconds to make him a perfect five-for-five in races this fall, beating Elder by six seconds.

"Aaron continues to be rock solid for us. He can really control the pace of the race," Heritage coach Brian Smith said. "If he can turn the race into an 800-meter or a 400-meter race at the finish, he's going to have an advantage because of his acceleration."

Fact is, the race went according to plan for Worthy.

"The strategy is to stay with the leaders and then kick at the end. It's a good strategy for me," Worthy said. "The pace of the race was good. It could have been a little faster. The course was kind of the same for me, even though it was probably easier (due to the changes because of the flood)."

The Heritage boys tallied 80 points to win the race followed by Habersham Central (80), Southwest DeKalb (124), Newton (133) and Apalachee (153).

Heritage's Brandon Harrison added a fourth-place overall finish in 18:05.25 to help his team's cause. Andrew Connors (15th, 18:41.57), Mike Dontfraid (26th, 19:20.61) and Zach Landy (34th, 19:40.70) completed the Patriots' top five.

"We dropped one to Newton earlier in the season and we were up against Habersham Central last week and lost by 10 or 12 points, so it was good to see our boys bounce back," Smith said. "We put it all together today in a race that's really special to us on our home course. Our top five guys all ran stronger than they have all season. They are starting to see the results of their training."

Matt Knight and Tyler Ransom paced Newton's strong effort, finishing 20th (19:10.12) and 21st (19:10.54) respectively. Jamal Green (27th, 19:20.92), Jason Moffitt (30th, 19:31.22) and Dominique Destafano (35th, 19:43.53) rounded out the Rams' top five.

Dontavius Wright continued his strong season for Salem, finishing seventh overall in 18:17.13. The Seminoles finished 14th.

Joshua Holcombe placed 24th (19:17.83) for Alcovy, which finished 11th.

Forrest Freeman was Rockdale's top finisher in 72nd (21:04.55). The Bulldogs did not have enough runners for a team score.

In the girls red division race, Heritage sophomore Simone Worthy was the top local finisher in seventh place at 22:21.27.

The Lady Patriots placed fourth in the team standings with 131 points. Union Grove was the winner with 57 followed by Dacula at 71 and Southwest DeKalb at 128.

Lena Killingsworth (23rd, 24:31.61), Alex Grimes (30th, 25:06.68), Alyssa Clingenpeel (40th, 25:58.63) and Shea Smith (45th, 26:24.41) completed Heritage's top five.

"Simone got out there and did well. She finished seventh against some good competition," Smith said. "We have a fairly young girls squad, so some of the girls are just now realizing what it takes to compete. We got a look today at we're going to be up against at region. We need to work on taking the next step and be ready to challenge at region."

Taviana Nolley finished 33rd overall in 25:13.19 for the Newton girls, who placed 13th in the team standings.

Rockdale's Caitlyn VanHeest placed 38th in 25:40.79, as the Lady Bulldogs finished in 12th.

Salem's top finisher was Brittany Freeman in 71st (27:50.18). The Lady Seminoles ended up 14th.

The Eastside girls finished ninth in the girls varsity blue race. Blakely Smith had the Lady Eagles' top finish in 21st at 23:16.21.

In the boys blue race, Eastside chalked up a 16th-place team finish. Sam Johnson led the way for the Eagles in 44th (19:30.87).

The Alcovy girls finished 13th in the girls varsity white race. Mikiala Houseworth paced the Lady Tigers in 106th with a time of 26:56.14.