Creekview’s Makena Gates is back to try to regain her individual state championship in 2020.

Three Cherokee County teams placed at the state championships in 2019 and moving into the 2020 season, several teams will be looking at new landscapes within their regions.

Along with the new competition, Cherokee County will once again return one of the best runners in the state.

Creekview senior Makena Gates finished second in Class AAAAAA last season, snapping her streak of two consecutive individual state titles. She didn’t view the result as a setback, however, and still took home her third consecutive Cherokee County Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award. She recorded a county-best time of 17:52, placed first in the former Region 6AAAAAA and was named to the All-Metro First-Team team by the Atlanta Track Club for the third consecutive year. In her final high school season, expect Gates to be one of the premier runners in the state.

On the team side, Etowah took home both the varsity and junior varsity championships at the county meet in 2019. The Eagles will return junior Makenna Calbert, who finished first at the county championships last year with a time of 18:57. Gates did not compete at last year’s county championship and the matchup with Calbert could be a good battle at this year’s event.

Etowah will need to replace last year’s senior leader Sydney Runyan but the ranks should be well-stocked with seniors Haley Theriault and Caroline Pierce along with junior Natalie Calbert.

Garrett Hurlbert returns to Etowah after being named the Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2019.

Etowah placed 12th at the Class AAAAAAA state championships last year while two other county schools had top-10 showings at the state meet. Creekview and River Ridge both placed in the top-10 in Class AAAAAA in 2019 and should remain among the top programs in the area.

River Ridge returns junior Cayden Crimson (seventh at county with a time of 20:06 and sixth at region with a time of 20:00) and senior Ciara Miles (10th at county with a time of 20:20). Crimson was an All-County selection last year and the Lady Knights will need to replace last year’s senior leader Paige Ewald, who was also an All-County selection.

Creekview will need to replace last year’s All-County senior Lane McTyre and finding runners to supplement Gates will determine where the Lady Grizzlies finish both within region and county. Look for Kate McTyre, Adrienne Jocke and Neva Humphries to play larger roles in scoring this season.

Woodstock finished third at the 2019 county meet and should return a few runners who could take the next step into the county’s elite. Sophomore Ella Bailey was the fasted freshman at last year’s county meet with a time of 19:53 and 20th at the Area meet with a time of 19:46. She should lead the pack for Woodstock with sophomore Lily Baily and senior Glenda Setlock shortly behind.

Ella Bailey and Setlock were both honorable mentions All-County selections in 2019. Samantha Burmeister and Caroline Olvin could also help bump Woodstock’s scoring after strong showings at the county meet as freshmen.

One program which could make a significant jump is Cherokee. The Lady Warriors return junior Lily Cincola and sophomore Lexi Pavese, both All-County selections last season as underclassmen. Cincola finished 4th at the county meet last season and 16th at Area while Pavese finished eighth at county and 12th at the Area. Only two freshmen recorded faster times than Pavese at the Area meet.

Sequoyah placed fourth at the county meet last season and fifth the region meet. The Lady Chiefs return two honorable mention All-County runners in sophomore Ella Grace Cothren and junior Susanna Rogers. Senior Madison Ehmig and sophomore Stella Waites recorded top 20 finishes at the county meet last season and should help keep pace for the Lady Chiefs.

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