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Southland Academy cross country teams earn top-10 finishes at state meet

ALBANY, GA – It was a great day for both the Southland Academy (SA) boys and girls cross country teams as both teams finished in the top 10 in the Class AAA standings at the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) State Championship meet held on Saturday, November 2, at the Albany State West Campus in Albany, GA.

“I was extremely pleased with their performance,” SA head coach Angie Bell said. “They progressed well throughout the season and were able to peak at the right time. Most of my runners ran their best race of the season.”

As a team, the Lady Raiders finished in sixth place with 144 points. They were just two points shy of Westminster Schools of Augusta, who finished in fifth place with 142 points. SA’s Region 3-AAA opponents, Deerfield-Windsor (DWS), finished in third place with 85 points. The state runners-up were Frederica Academy (FA) with 66 points. They finished just one point behind the state champions Augusta Prep (65 points).

Southland freshman Tanner Humphrey (middle) and junior Max Foster (right) are both trying to pass another runner during the GISA Class AAA boys’ race at the GISA State Cross Country Championships.
Photo by Angie Bell

SA senior Ryleigh Bell capped off her stellar career with a top-10 finish. Bell finished in 10th place with a time of 20:54.72. According to Bell and other runners, the course at the state meet, unlike many of the courses the Lady Raiders ran during the season, was more flat, which enabled the runners to turn in faster times. “This one is definitely flatter than the last course I ran, but this one did have a lot of mud because it had rained previously so you had to work with that,” Bell said. “That was the only big difference. It’s flat and fast.” Bell was just two seconds behind ninth-place finisher Ellie Runyan of FA (20:52.37). Sovi Wellons of the Heritage School won the race to take the girls’ individual state championship in a time of 18:53.91.

Southland senior Ryleigh Bell (far right) is holding her 10th place award. To her left is ninth-place finisher Ellie Runyan of Frederica Academy. To Runyan’s left is eighth-place finisher Brenna Clark of Valwood.
Photo by Angie Bell

The next Lady Raider to cross the finish line was sophomore Elizabeth Law. Law finished in 24th place out of 90 competitors in a time of 22:30.12. She was one second behind Charlotte Truett of FA (22:29.01).

SA sophomore Elizabeth Law finished the GISA girls’ Class AAA state meet in a time of 22:30.12. Law finished 24th out of 90 competitors.
Photo by Angie Bell

Sophomore Jadie Burrell was the next Lady Raider to cross the line: Burrell finished in 39th place with a time of 23:18.72. Eighth Grader Julia Clare Hubbard was the next Lady Raider to cross the finish line. Hubbard finished in a time of 24:07.48. Freshman Taylor Ragsdale would follow, turning in a strong finish with a time of 25:37.06. Freshman Ella Arnold also turned in a strong performance in the state meet. Arnold finished in a time of 27:43.24.

Southland senior Gray Torbert (left) and eighth grader Noah Sheff (right) run along side each other in the GISA Class AAA boys state championship race.
Photo by Angie Bell

The Southland boys’ team finished the state championship in seventh place with a total of 212 points. They were able to hold off eighth-place finishers Frederica Academy (FA), who finished with 217 points. In the sport of cross country, the object is to score the fewest points possible.

SA freshman Taylor Ragsdale turned in a solid performance at the GISA state meet by finishing the race in a time of 25:37.06.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Augusta Prep won the Class AAA team state championship with just 31 points, followed by state runners-up Deerfield-Windsor (DWS), who scored 42 points. Senior Porter Hill of DWS won the race to take the individual boys’ championship in a time of 16:21.23.

Southland senior Ryleigh Bell (left) is trying to pass a Valwood runner on her right during the GISA Class AAA girls’ race.
Photo by Angie Bell

Junior Max Foster was the first Raider to cross the finish line. Foster finished in 19th place in a time of 18:44.45. Freshman Tanner Humphrey finished two spots behind Foster in 21st place out of 96 competitors with a time of 18:57.56. For Humphrey, this was his best race of the season.

Southland sophomore Jadie Burrell sprints towards the finish line: Burrell finished in a time of 23:18.72.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Humphrey said that the cold weather, along with the course being wet and damp, made it difficult for Humphrey, but he was able to push through. “We ran this one earlier this year,” Humphrey said. “It’s really flat and fast. It’s good. I like this course.” Humphrey was referring to the Deerfield-Windsor Invitational that both the Raiders and Lady Raiders ran in back in September. That meet was held on the very same course as the GISA State Championships.

Southland eighth grader Lee Graft (left) is trying to pass two runners from Tiftarea Academy. Graft finished the race in a time of 22:05.08.
Photo by Angie Bell

Eighth Grader Noah Sheff was the next Raider to cross the finish line. In spite of feeling under the weather, Sheff was able to finish in a time of 20:44.14. Right behind Sheff was senior Gray Torbert. Torbert finished in a time of 20:44.37.

SA freshman Ella Arnold turned in a strong performance in the state meet by finishing in a time of 27:43.24.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Eighth Grader Lee Graft also turned in a strong performance for SA by crossing the finish line in a time of 22:05.08. “I just tried to stay with the dude from Tift (Tiftarea Academy),” Graft said. Graft was referring to Freshman Ty Cowan of Tiftarea Academy, who edged out Graft by two seconds (22:03.91).

SA eighth grader Julia Clare Hubbard pushes her way towards the finish line. Hubbard finished the state meet in a time of 24:07.48.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Now that the season is over, all of the SA runners will get ready for other sports, such as basketball. Many of them will hit the track in the spring for the Track & Field season. However, with the exception of Gray Torbert and Ryleigh Bell, the rest of the runners will be back next fall for another exciting season of Southland Academy Cross Country.