Walton, Marietta and Pope appear to be evenly matched and are the frontrunners to win the meet at the Cobb County Corps Property in Acworth.
Walton, the defending county champion, is dealing with a couple of injuries in its starting lineup.
Brian Sullivan, last year’s individual winner, won’t run Saturday and will likely be out until the Region 5AAAAAA meet Nov. 3. Although the nature of Sullivan’s injury is still unconfirmed, coach Travis Gower said he may be battling a stress fracture.
Mitchell Sanders is also injured and will miss the race for the Raiders.
But everyone else seems healthy and ready to go for Walton. Kenan Farmer, who won the Warpath Invitational earlier this season, is expected to lead a pack of Raider runners that includes R.J. Torres, Connor Kilch and Jimmie Stuckey.
“We’re missing (Sullivan and Sanders), but the rest of our guys are running well,” Gower said. “We’re not going to be 100 percent. Based on what I’ve seen, Marietta should be the favorite, and Pope is solid as well.”
Unlike Walton, the Marietta boys are currently at full strength health wise and running well.
Ben Pleak is having a banner season and coming off a 33rd-place finish last weekend at the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C., where he broke the 16-minute banner in a time of 15:48. Jake Bagwell also fared well at the meet, with a 16:02, and Alexander Goosby clocked in at 16:19.
“We’re just hoping for the best (at county),” Marietta coach Jack Coleman said. “It will come down to Pope, Walton and us, depending on the injuries Walton has. We will finish in one order or another. Who knows? We’ll have to run it and see. Both (Walton and Pope) are good teams and always competitive.”
Patrick Fleming has been leading Pope as of late. He’s coming off a third-place showing at the Alligator Lake Invitational in Lake City, Fla., with a time of 16:09.11, and he was second at the Double Dip Invitational in 16:28.
Gunnar Stormack has also been solid for the Greyhounds.
The Walton girls came up short of defending their title last year, finishing second to Harrison, but the Lady Raiders are expected to be the favorites going into this year’s meet.
Walton has in running together at the front of the pack. Leading runners Alexa Womack, Katie Sanders, Avery Bussjager and Christina Gnecco all have a shot at finishing in the top 15.
Harrison is younger this season after losing four key runners to graduation, including Kaylee Isaacs, who is now running at Georgia Tech, but the Lady Hoyas still have experience with Elise Bray and Emily Duvaris.
“Walton is the clear favorite,” Harrison coach Kent Simmons said. “I love to say we can compete with them, but, in reality, they are a good team. But we do have a good, solid team and we’ll do the best that we can.”
Lassiter can potentially finish among the top of the pack behind Morgan Ainslie, who will vie for an individual title. Erin Verdeyen and Elaina Gray are also expecting to be in the mix for the Lady Trojans.