CARROLLTON — Makena Gates ended her high school cross country career just how she began it — as state champion.
The Creekview senior again took her place atop the awards podium after winning her third title in four years following Friday’s Class AAAAAA state championships.
After winning the title as a freshman in 2017 and a sophomore in ’18 before placing runner-up to Richmond Hill’s Kayla Gholar last year, Gates came out on top once again Friday with a time of 18 minutes, 42 seconds.
“I was really happy with my results here last year, but it’s nice to end my high school cross country career with another state title,” said Gates, who will be attending Harvard next fall and plans to compete in cross country and track and field. “I’m proud of myself, and it’s an amazing feeling.”
Gates battled Riverwood’s Elle Mezzio for first early on until the second mile, when Gates began to pull away and take control of the race.
At the end, Gates finished nearly a minute ahead of Evans’ Simone Rojas (19:37), while Mezzio eventually faded to sixth place (20:17) behind Pope’s Sophie Boice (19:57) and Lorel Golden (20:10), and River Ridge’s Ciara Miles.
“I went out pretty fast, and (Mezzio) was hanging with me (early in the race),” Gates said. “I went out at 5:40 (in the first mile), which is probably the fastest I’ve ever gone out, and this is the fastest time I’ve ever run here.”
River’s Ridge’s Cayden Crimson was the only other Cherokee County runner in the individual top 10 with a 10th-place showing (20:35).
River Ridge was the top local finisher in the team standings with a sixth-place finish of 195 points, while Sequoyah placed eighth (213).
Pope won the team title with 74 points. Allatoona (134), Cambridge (144) and Lakeside-DeKalb (191) completed the podium.
In the boys race, Creekview’s Bryson Gates — Makena’s brother — was the top county individual finisher with a ninth-place finish of 17:11. Gates was the lone local runner in the top 20.
Evans’ Jonathan Greene (16:36) won the boys’ title, followed by Rome’s Patrick Motes (16:40) and Carrollton’s Will Jennings (16:47).
Sequoyah was the only Cherokee County team to place in the team standings with a 13th-place finish of 356 points.
Cambridge (108) won the team title, followed by South Effingham (117), Alexander (126) and Richmond Hill (144).