The Marietta boys had five of the top 12 finishers — including four in the top 10 — to score 32 points and secure back-to-back region crowns.
“I just wanted the guys to run a conservative first mile and then see how they’d sit for the rest of the race,” Marietta coach Jack Coleman said. “It always feels good to come out a winner at region. It’s two in a row for us and we’re excited to move on to state.
“We won Cobb County, and Harrison beat us at the Coach Wood Invitational a little over a week ago, so we figured they were coming in here with a little bit of momentum. I’m glad we were able to pull it out and, hopefully, we can do it again (at the state championship) next week.”
Joining Marietta and Harrison (44 points) at next week’s Class AAAAAA state championship in Carrollton will be North Cobb (97) and Kennesaw Mountain (99). Hillgrove (111), Campbell (197), Pebblebrook (221) and South Cobb (232) rounded out the team standings.
Kennesaw Mountain’s Alex Dunlap took home the individual title in convincing fashion.
He and North Cobb’s Paul Schupp ran the first mile in a virtual dead-heat, but Dunlap took control the rest of the way and finished in a personal-best time of 15 minutes, 41.84 seconds. Marietta’s Khayvonn Benson (16:01.13) was second, followed by Harrison’s Ryan Brock (16:03.11), Marietta’s Jack Henderson (16:07.10) and Schupp (16:07.48).
Also scoring for Marietta were Carlos Torres (sixth, 16:11.77), Ben Patterson (eighth, 16:17.81) and Tim O’Connell (12th, 16:38.94).
“The region (championship) is just a stepping stone to state, and my goal is to win (Class) AAAAAA state, so this feels really good,” Dunlap said. “I felt confident in my ability. I took the first mile nice and easy, and after that mile, I did a little check-out where I just sped up a little bit to freshen up. Then, I kept driving it from mile 1 to the last 2 miles, and the race came together.”
The top six individuals on non-advancing teams also qualified for the state championships. Hillgrove teammates Conner Head, Brent Starks, Derek Wood, Drew Brand and Glendon Genty will also race next week, as will McEachern’s Joseph LeBlanc.
In the girls race, Marietta runners placed first, second and third, but Harrison countered by watching all seven of its runners finish between fourth and 13th place to garner 38 points and a sixth straight region title.
“In both the boys and girls races, it was a tight, tight race,” Harrison coach Kent Simmons said. “Marietta brought their ‘A’ game. They raced us hard, and having our little group of girls in the middle of that race made a difference.
“All seven of our girls came in before Marietta’s 4 and 5 runners. That was part of our plan. We knew it would be tough to break up Marietta’s top three, but our girls found a way to win it. Winning six in a row is a streak we’re very proud of, and it’s something the girls are proud of as well.”
Marietta was second with 43 points. Hillgrove (84 points) and North Cobb (95) also qualified for next week’s state meet.
Kennesaw Mountain (108), South Cobb (201) and Pebblebrook (201) rounded out the field.
Mary Jeanne Assinzo led a Marietta sweep of the top three places, crossing the line in a personal-best time of 18:51.67. She dominated the race after the first mile, beating teammates Kayla Dawson (19:07.66) and Rebecca Dow (19:12.78).
“It feels great,” Assinzo said. “My coaches trained me enough and put me in a good position to where I’d be strong enough to win this race, and I thank them for training me so well.
“We knew a lot of the girls would go out too fast and we would just stick with them and let them set the pace and run themselves out and move around them. We finished 1-2-3. We’ve all been training so hard and it’s good to see our hard work pay off.”
Rounding out the top five were Harrison’s Audrey Smith (19:20.15) and Kennesaw Mountain’s Rachel Mendoza (19:28.13).
Also scoring for Harrison were Kennedy Sorge (sixth, 19:37.47), Mattie Rountree (eighth, 20:07.07), Natalie Johnston (10th, 20:22.84) and Jennifer Tull (12th, 20:29.61).
Individually, Mendoza and teammates Mary Kindred, Ellie Harding and Julia Thomas also advanced to the state meet with McEachern’s Olapeju Togunde and Campbell’s Madelyn Pieroni.