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Lady Rebels Region 2-AAAAAA runners-up
Megan Hilton
Megan Hilton is coming off a strong showing for Effingham County heading into this week's Class AAAAAA meet in Carrollton. - photo by Photo submitted

SPRINGFIELD  The Effingham County girls’ cross country team finished as the runner-up in the Region 2-AAAAAA championship meet last week in Richmond Hill. 

Sophomores Candace Kieffer (20:53) and Megan Hilton (21:21) finished third and seventh, respectively.

“The girls’ team has run solidly all season and has steadily improved with each race,” Effingham County head coach Pam Richards said. “I am excited to see how this group of young women will continue to grow and develop as competitors after we have an awesome state meet.”

Effingham County’s boys clinched a spot in the state meet with a fourth-place finish. Kody Everett finished in sixth place with a time of 17:41. 

Everett admitted pounding the pavement is no easy task on the woody and windy course in Richmond Hill. Sharp turns galore made it difficult for the senior to accelerate when needed.

“You hit the corners and you use the 10-step approach,” he said. “You hit the turn and you have a burst of speed for about ten steps. I tried to do that on those turns but there are so many of them. 

“It’s hard to hit the turn full speed and then keep your speed going.”

Still, Everett was proud to produce another top-10 individual finish. As he reflected on his senior campaign at Effingham County, he is thankful for what has been an impressive showing. Knowing he has just one more run, he’s laser focused on what it’s going to take for the Rebels to upset a strong field of runners at the state meet.

“I am very grateful for how my season is going,” he said. “I know I didn’t complete my region race the way I wanted to but I can’t get down on myself. I have to get prepared for state and get my mind focused on that. 

“I have to leave this race behind me because, if I don’t, it will carry on to state and then I won’t perform well at state.”

The story of the day was senior Gunnar Tyson, who implemented a strategic attack on the course. Despite falling behind, Tyson didn’t let the large gap intimidate him. His ability to remain poised helped him earn seventh place with a time of 17:53, which was good for a personal record.

“I tried to go out and get a pace that I could keep,” Tyson said. “I didn’t want to start out too fast. I knew if I could stay with the pack  I could slowly pick them off one by one. 

“That kept me in the race mentally.”

The run was momentous for Tyson, who competed in the final region meet of his career.

“It’s also one of my last races so that’s pretty special that I got to run with my teammates and finish as well as I did,” he said.

Richards believes as long as her team is tapped in this weekend, it will have a fighting chance.

“We are still working on what their pace looks like,” she said. “This is going to be a tough week to get mentally focused for an intimidating course but I know if our minds are focused, our legs will fly. 

“If we hold true to our best race, the course will not hold us back.”