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South runners sweep 2-AAAAA crowns
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GUYTON — The South Effingham cross country teams claims both Region 2-AAAAA titles last week in Jesup.

A handful of sophomores anchored the boys team. Cailan Howard (16:35) finishing second overall, Jacob Mitchell (17:15) clinched third place and Ronald Way (17:25) rounded out the top five. Joey Burdick (17:32) and Aiden Anderson (17:53) posted top-10 finishes.

“My guys — all those tenth graders — did really well,” South Effingham head coach Laura Soles said. “Cailan Howard, Ronald Way and Kevin Sosa are all sophomores and they are running nineteens. That is good depth.”

Soles said she has been impressed with the mental toughness of the boys’ team and is hopeful it will be just as determined on what will be a challenging and hilly course in Carrollton on Friday for the state meet.

“My top five on both teams are very focused,” she said.

Despite a trying week of practice, Soles said her squad met her expectations.

“I didn't expect anyone to do better because it's a hard course,” she said.

Soles is taking a careful approach this week regarding the way the teams practice. They will take their foot off the gas and their current times will determine how much she pushes them.

“I am in the process of pulling up their state times and I said the goal is to have a better time,” Soles said. “I told them to quit talking about what you can't do. They psych themselves out. 

“We taper — meaning we go down a mile and we don't worry about speed work. We do quality days, but I have a couple of them that have aches and pains.”

The Lady Mustangs won the top three spots in their region meet. Cheyenne Ryan led the charge with a time of 21:22. Diya Patel (21:49), Melanie Ripley (21:51), Jailynn Tindall (23:54) and Sydney Sticha (24:20) finished in the top 15. 

The Lady Mustangs averaged a time of 22:39, finishing 47 seconds faster as a team than second-place finisher Ware County.

“All of them last week were competitive,” Soles said. “This week they didn't have anyone around them, so they weren't very competitive. I told them when they got on the line, I am not worried today. I am concerned about state.”

As for the state meet, Soles said her team’s 10th-place finish last season was a sweet surprise. This season, she’s excited to see how the Mustangs will compete.

“I was surprised (about last year’s finish) because we had a lot of freshmen,” Soles said. “The top five are really close.”