With most of his top finishers underclassmen, Howard got a glimpse of what could be a positive future for the Eagles.
“The younger runners stepped up (Saturday),” Howard said. “Our top five girls were freshmen or sophomores, and the guys’ top three were freshmen and sophomores as well, so I guess the younger runners have been training a lot. And we knew we had a good group of young runners coming up, so it’s good for the future.”
Unlike the usual cross country meet format, which consists of separate 3.1-mile boys and girls races, the stage race format consisted of five races — or stages — of 2 miles each, with boys and girls running together.
The Stage 1 races featured the No. 5 runners on each team, while the concluding Stage 5 race featured each squad’s top-ranked performer.
Brian Matthews, a sophomore, led Etowah’s youthful boys side as he won Stage 1 with a time of 10 minutes, 22 seconds on the 2-mile course. Fellow sophomore Michael Perona (10:37) was sixth in Stage 3.
Freshman Blake Beavers was the next-fastest Etowah runner, running 10:42 to place seventh in Stage 2.
Ross Gudger and Justin Brown each ran 10:45, with Gudger eighth in Stage 4 and Brown 16th in Stage 5.
Finley Billings led the Etowah girls with a time of 12:33, good enough for 11th among the girls in Stage 5.
The Lady Eagles’ next three finishers were freshmen. Shelby Rensel ran 12:42 to finish sixth in Stage 3, Kyla Resnick crossed at 12:43 for a third-place showing in Stage 4 and Kingsley Green finished at 13:20 to place 11th in Stage 1.
Rounding out the Etowah girls’ top five was sophomore Kaitlyn Dorsey, whose time of 13:25 gave her an eighth-place finish in Stage 2.
“Almost all of our runners met the trial times that they ran last week,” Howard said. “It’s only a 2-mile race, so you can’t take a whole lot out of it. It may not be the best indicator of where we are, but it’s a start.”
While the top four finishers among the boys and girls were announced after the race, the complete team results were not available at press time.
Etowah will return to action Sept. 8 for the Berry Invitational at Berry College.