Southland Academy cross country teams poised and ready to achieve greatness

Published 6:04 pm Thursday, August 1, 2019

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AMERICUS – They’ve been training all summer. They’ve been running in the sweltering heat and humidity in preparation for the upcoming 2019 season. They’ve made sacrifices when it comes to food, staying away from sweets such as ice cream and candy bars for the purpose of attaining the satisfaction of winning an individual or team state championship.

These athletes are members of the boys and girls cross country teams at Southland Academy (SA). Having put in the work over the summer, they are poised and ready to achieve greatness in 2019.

In 2018, the boys’ team finished seventh overall in state. The girls’ team, having been plagued with injuries all season, had one runner qualify for state. That runner was Elizabeth Law, who will be a sophomore this year. “She placed in the top 10 at region, which qualified her for state and she ended up running very well. She placed 15th overall,” SA Cross Country Coach Angie Bell said.

Coach Bell will have several runners returning from last year’s girls and boys’ teams. On the boys’ side, Gray Torbert returns for his senior season. Torbert finished the state meet in a time of 19:13.79. Also returning is sophomore Matthew Peck. According to Bell, Peck raced very well a year ago. “He was probably my most improved runner,” Bell said.

As an eighth grader, Tanner Humphrey placed in the top 10 in last year’s Region 3 AAA Meet. With a year of competition at the varsity level under his belt, Humphrey should have an even stronger season in 2019 as a freshman. Bell will also have two eighth graders to fill out the five-man team: Lee Graft and Noah Sheff.

On the girls’ side, in addition to the return of Law, Ryleigh Bell returns for her senior season as a Lady Raider. Also returning for the Lady Raiders is sophomore Jadie Burrell, along with freshmen Ella Arnold and Taylor Ragsdale.

Bell is hoping that the addition of three eighth graders, Taylor Humphrey, Julia Clare Hubbard and Ansley Goolsby, will help the Lady Raiders excel in the region meet later this fall.

The Raiders and Lady Raiders will begin their seasons when they compete in the Furlow Charter Invitational on Saturday, August 24, at the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department (SCPRD) course.

SA won three-straight boys’ cross country state titles in 2013, 2014 and 2015. They are hoping that this will be the year for another state championship. The girls’ team has never won state, but has earned a region championship on more than one occasion. If they can avoid injuries, the Lady Raiders may have a legitimate chance of bringing home SA’s first girls’ cross country state championship.