The Lady Raiders are among the favorites to take the Class AAAAAA crown, along with Brookwood, Peachtree Ridge and region rival Milton.
Walton will be joined in the 12:15 p.m. girls race by four other county teams — Harrison, Hillgrove, Marietta and North Cobb.
Walton, Marietta, Harrison, Kennesaw Mountain, North Cobb and Wheeler will compete in the boys race at 11:30 a.m.
Both of Pope’s and Allatoona’s boys and girls teams will take part in the Class AAAAA races — the boys at 1 p.m., followed by the girls at 1:45 p.m.
Individually, Lassiter’s Marcie Merriman and Morgan Ainslie will race in the Class AAAAAA girls meet, while Kell’s Logan Poteet will participate in the boys AAAAA event.
Most eyes will be on the Class AAAAAA girls meet as Region 5AAAAAA champion Walton attempts to three-peat.
The Lady Raiders ran away from the field a season ago, with five runners placing among the top 16. This year’s team also has several strong runners, and a favorable weather forecast — clear skies and temperatures in the mid-60s — should also help Walton hoist another title.
“We’re healthy and ready to run,” Walton coach Travis Gower said. “We’re going to try our best to get a third-straight championship, but we know it will be a challenge. The Brookwood girls are really good, and Milton has some strong runners as well.
“As long as we work well together out on the course, I think good things will happen. We’re a pretty consistent group with a lot of girls that can finish high in the standings.”
Walton will also be one of the top contenders in the Class AAAAAA boys race, though it will be a challenge to beat heavy favorites Mill Creek, Norcross, Brookwood and Marietta.
Walton edged Marietta by three points at the Cobb County Championship, but injuries have since taken their toll on the Raiders.
“Marietta is running well, and they’re probably one of the favorites,” Gower said. “Our boys are beat-up. We have a few injuries, and some guys are sick, and that’s not what you want to see this late in the season.
“We’re going to try our best and see how we stack up.”
Marietta has captured several state track and field titles, but that success has never translated into cross country, so the Blue Devils will be eyeing their first cross country crown Saturday.
“Our last track and field championship was in 2008, but cross country has never won state,” Marietta coach Jack Coleman said, “so we’ll make an attempt at our first. I think things look good for us. We raced well and won at the region meet, and we hope to finish high at state.”
Coleman likes his team’s chances because the Blue Devils appear to be peaking at the right time. The week before dominating the Region 4AAAAAA championship, Marietta won the prestigious Coach Wood Invitational over many of its contemporaries, including Mill Creek, Norcross, Brookwood and Walton.
“If we go out and run our race, you never know what can happen,” Coleman said. “I like how we’ve looked in our last two races. There were some good teams at Coach Wood, and I feel like it will take a heck of a race to take us out.”
Pope will look to improve on its seventh-place finish at last year’s Class AAAA meet. The Greyhounds won the Region 7AAAAA title and are considered one of the favorites, along with Flowery Branch, McIntosh, Lakeside-Evans and Greenbrier, to win the AAAAA championship.
Allatoona, which took home the Region 5AAAAA crown, just missed out on a place on the podium with a fifth-place finish at last year’s Class AAA meet.
Lakeside-Evans, Dunwoody, Lakeside-DeKalb and Flowery Branch are among the favorites in the girls Class AAAAA meet.
Allatoona, which placed fourth at the Region 5AAAAA meet, finished third in the state in Class AAA last season. Pope, which finished second in Region 7AAAAA, was 15th in Class AAAA last year.
Saturday’s meet will be run without teams from Class A.
With the Georgia High School Association’s expansion to six classifications this year, Class A teams competed for separate private- and public-school state titles last weekend in Macon.