MILTON, Ga. — After placing both its boys and girls cross-country teams in the top-four at the 2016 state championship meet with a number of underclassmen, an extra year of experience puts Milton high in the running to capture its first state title this year.
The boys team returns five of its top seven runners, including two top-10 placers in last year’s state championship meet. Milton cross-country coach Andy Carr said this year’s team is perhaps the strongest he’s ever coached.
“With the experience they have, hopefully they are ready to do something special this year,” Carr said.
The Eagles return their two top runners in seniors Sam Bowers and Michael Malkowski.
Bowers is the defending Class AAAAAAA state champion, capturing the title with a time of 16:06 in 2016. He also won the 3200-meter state title at this year’s track and field state championship.
Fellow senior Michael Malkowski also returns after placing sixth in last year’s state meet. Carr said Malkowski has made improvements and should compete with Bowers for the top-spot on the Eagles’ roster.
Ryan Beitzell, Dru Milton, Cam Harman and Andrew Blizzard also return this season.
The boys team will also have new contributors in Iowa transfer Nicholas Yanek and freshman Hayden Marshall.
Yanek placed fifth in the 3200-meter track and field state championship this summer, and Marshall came close to matching Bowers’ middle school times.
The girls team, which placed fourth at last year’s state meet, will replace three of its top-seven runners this season and will be a relatively young team. Marie Repasy has graduated and Faith Bobak, who led the Lady Eagles at last year’s state meet as a freshman, has transferred to Pickens County.
Leading the Lady Eagles this season will be Abby Rindt, who returns after an impressive freshman season in 2016.
“[Rindt] is definitely one-of-a-kind,” Carr said. “She loves to race and she’s gaining more experience and a lot more confidence.”
Also returning is junior Taylor Cushman, who placed 11th in last year’s state meet and 12th in the Region 5-AAAAAAA meet. Cushman has concentrated on distance running versus soccer and is ready to compete, Carr said.
Milton will have senior leadership in Emily Bowers and Jessie Barnes and also return junior Faith Wagner.
The Lady Eagles will look to defend their Region title this season, but will face stiff competition from South Forsyth, which returns much of its state championship team of 2016.