By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published September 29, 2022
CARTERSVILLE—Marist School’s cross-country team competed in the Wingfoot XC Classic on Friday, Sept. 23 at Sam Smith Park where junior Ruby Little of Marist defended her 2021 title.
Little finished first in the girls’ championship division at 18:08.5. Her time is the eighth fastest in course history.
“I told the girls to run with joy and to just do their best,” said Little. “I think they really did this.”
The girls’ team finished in third place in the meet and first among all Georgia teams.
Nearly 150 high schools from Georgia and surrounding states competed in the meet, including St. John Bosco Academy, Blessed Trinity and St. Pius X High Schools.
This was the third meet of the season for the Marist War Eagles, who last year finished in first place for the girls’ team and second place for the boys’ team in state championships as 4A division competitors.
Marist School is now competing in the 6A sports division after new classifications of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) realignment went into effect this year.
“The depth and the level of competition is going to be much deeper, but we’re excited for the opportunity to get out there,” said Matt McMurray, head coach of the school’s cross-country and track and field teams.
Even though Little was challenged on the course by a couple of runners, she was able to stay focused and keep pushing her pace.
“I really believe that God wanted me to learn that I can stay relentless and accelerate when people challenge me,” she said.
Earlier this season, she won the Warpath Invitational cross-country meet in Canton with a time of 17:39.32, the second fastest record at Marist of all time.
The championship boys’ team finished in 11th place at the meet, placing fifth among all Georgia teams and second place in the GHSA 6A division.
With most cross-country meets held on Saturday mornings, the Wingfoot meet was more challenging because it was held in the evening, explained sophomore Tommy Latham from the Marist team.
“Running at night at meets like Wingfoot are harder to succeed at due to the tendency to keep a normal everyday routine,” he said. “Wingfoot forces runners to make sacrifices that a normal race day would not include to perform well.”
Despite these challenges, Latham finished in third place for the championship boys’ team with a time of 15:14.10. Earlier this season at the Southern Showcase meet in Huntsville, Alabama, Latham broke the Marist record for the overall fastest running time, finishing at 15:10.71.
The junior varsity championship girls’ team had a third-place team finish, placing second among all Georgia teams and first in the GHSA 6A division. The junior varsity boys’ team ran to a 16th-place team finish, placing 10th among all Georgia teams and third in GHSA 6A.
Many of the students also broke personal records during the cross-country meet. Sophomore Erin Reilly improved her time by 14 seconds in the junior varsity championship race and had the eighth fastest time for Marist. Junior Michael O’Rielly improved his personal record by 3 seconds, finishing at 18:29.50 and placing 6th for Marist at the meet.
Ella Mullally won second place in the freshmen championship race with a time of 20:56.30, beating her personal record by 59 seconds and finishing in seventh place for the Marist team. Alexander Mildzikhov beat his personal time by 76 seconds in the boy’s freshman championship race.
Originally a soccer athlete, freshman Kendall Cushion is enjoying being part of the Marist cross-country team, said her mother, Dani Cushion. She is proud that her daughter is putting herself out there and trying a new sport.
Marist “cares about developing the whole person,” said Dani. “She’s having a great time. She loves her team.”
The Marist team is looking forward to upcoming meets, such as the Great American in Cary, North Carolina on Oct. 2 and the state championship on Nov. 5 in Carrollton. McMurray hopes some members of the team will compete and win post-season meets as well.
In an email to Marist staff and cross-country families after the competition, McMurray complimented the hard work of everyone to make the team a success.
“The heart, comradery and effort exhibited Friday night was special to witness, and we’re incredibly grateful for our runners’ hard work and determination, as well as the support and love they’re receiving at home.”