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Matthew Brown/HHJ Megan Asadian, girls county cross country winner from Houston County High.
Matthew Brown/HHJ Nick Wilcox of Warner Robins High and Clay Woolfolk of Veterans run the early lengths of the county cross country boys race. They would finish first and second.
Journal Sports Writer
Even though, according to the new official rankings for boys high school cross country, the Perry High Panthers are a mere No. 3 in all of Class AAAA, it shouldn’t damper aspirations these runners in maroon have of winning a state team championship next month in Carrollton.
After all, the No. 3 spot is actually a drop from No. 2. Wayne County High’s strong program found a way to take enough votes to get No. 2 this week, and both the Panthers and Yellow Jackets are looking up at No. 1 Marist.
“It’s the first time we’ve been in that situation,” said Perry head coach Brett Hardy prior to the start of Wednesday’s county cross country competition at Huntington Middle School. “We just have a good group of kids. I knew we would be good if we were healthy because they do run in a pack. Whenever you can get them to run in together, you have a chance of getting a low score.”
Low scores are commonplace for this year’s Perry team, including the 29 points that took Wednesday’s county title by 14 against Veterans High. To get that, Jackson Reid and John Weaks placed third and fourth respectively. Jimmy Mehserle and Tyler Claxton were also near each other at the finish. .38 seconds separating them at sixth and seventh place (with Veterans’ Kyle Hesketh less than a second behind Claxton for eighth).
Callum Henry finished ninth, so that was Perry’s 29 points adding three, four, six, seven and nine.
Perry also had four place in the top 10 at the Rock Ranch Invitational and the Carrollton Orthopedic Invitational, which is held at the state championships’ course. Five Panthers were in the top 10 at the Warner Robins Invitational also held at Huntington.
Hardy began coaching Perry cross country in 2008, and the program has racked up county and region titles ever since. In that first year, he would talk like the basketball coach he is about times not being so good.
“I didn’t know much about it as I do now,” said Hardy. “It doesn’t have anything to do with me, but I didn’t know what to expect that first year, how important having a fifth and sixth guy was. What I tried to do was build them together.
“(Finding guys) has been the toughest thing. A lot of these guys are friends. I think the success we had with Billy (Colbert) and Jesse (Yeomans) brought more people out. To their credit, they’ve blossomed. They run during the summer and on the weekends.”
Perry’s chance to win Region 2-AAAA is on Nov. 1 at the Monroe County Recreation Department in Forsyth. While the Panthers will have to stave off upset bids from the likes of the Warhawks of Veterans (led by Clay Woolfolk, second to Warner Robins’ Nick Wilcox at county), they themselves should have upset on their minds going to Carrollton on Nov. 10.
“It’s going to be tough to beat (Marist),” said Hardy. “The milesplit said they are basically untouchable. I keep telling them if we get there, we have a chance.
“I don’t think (upsets in cross country) are as likely as in football or basketball where somebody can get hot. These kids have worked all year and are conditioned and fast.”
Not that Hardy wants to see any Marist runner fall down on the course …
On the girls side, Megan Asadian of Houston County High may be putting herself not only in position to win a second straight region championship, but make noise in the state meet as well. She won the 2012 county race by well more than a minute’s time over Perry’s Abby Booth.
It was with her personal record time of 19:04.
According to Houston coach Stephen Rucki, Asadian is going to face stiff competition in this year’s Region 2-AAAAA meet. This year’s meet will be held at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, and Lakeside-Evans’ girls team is No. 4 in the ga.milesplit rankings.
Asadian needs to finish no worse than sixth in region to qualify for state competition individually. She could go as a member of the Lady Bear team if it places in the top four.
Lakeside-Evans features Sarah Bowels, whose best time in 2012 is an 18:39 recorded Oct. 13 at the Carroll County town of Whitesburg (McIntosh Nature Preserve).

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