More than 850 middle and high school runners were on hand for the 2021 GMC Prep Bulldog Dash held at Council Farms Thursday.
It’s entirely fitting that the running field was massive, because that’s where the race took place — a massive field. Council Farms is located just over the Baldwin-Wilkinson County line, and really puts the “country” in cross country. Wide swaths of grass are cut to create the course that challenges middle and high school competitors as well as collegiate runners on occasion. GMC usually hosts on its own campus, but the school is getting a new track and field facility. That construction is in the way for now, so GMC opted to use Council Farms as its venue.
Cross country is both an individual and team sport. Runners race for top honors on their own, and each team’s top-five finishing placements are added together to compute a team score. The lower the team score in cross country, the better.
Individually, the day’s best finish went to GMC Prep senior Jada Warren who completed the high school girls 5K race second overall behind Lillie Mealor of FPD. Warren posted a 21:43 to Mealor’s 20:47, but more importantly the Bulldog senior was the highest-placing Class A-Public runner, beating out her competition from Lake Oconee Academy and ACE Charter. That’s who Warren will be running against come the state meet in November. Baldwin High School and John Milledge Academy ran at the Bulldog Dash as well. Baldwin sophomore Jasmine Williams finished fifth with a 23:26 Thursday while JMA was led by freshman Lily Ryan with a 23:56. Thanks to other strong Lady Trojan performances like that of senior Kaela Clark (15th, 24:42), the JMA high school girls earned fifth place in the 15-team event with 118 points. GMC Prep was seventh with 202 points, and Baldwin did not have enough runners to score in the team ranks. Houston County won the high school girls race at 51 points.
Speaking of Houston County, the 6A school’s sophomore Benji Malcom won the high school boys race comfortably with a time of 17:50. ACE’s Nathan Hallar was about 24 seconds behind him to take second. Baldwin sophomore Emanuel Dixon had the highest finish among local racers at 19th (19:44), and GMC Prep’s Brian Sherwood was not too far behind him at 24th (19:50). The two schools alternated again with Amir Gilmore taking 30th (20:08) for BHS while Joe Meier went 32nd (20:19) for GMC. The Braves would edge out the Bulldogs for eighth place by a mere two points, 243-245. John Milledge was 15th, and Westminster Schools of Augusta won the high school boys event with 77 points.
Earlier in the day, the middle school girls and boys took to a shortened two-mile version of the course. Jones County’s Gray Station Middle School dominated the boys race with 35 points led by Tyler Marshall’s second-place finish. GMC Prep, meanwhile, grabbed third behind Westminster Christian Academy. Lily Palmer of Gray Station finished first overall in the middle school girls competition, but it was Jeff Davis Middle School of Hazlehurst that took the top team honor there.
All the local cross country will continue running through the regular season in preparation for the events that really count, their respective region and state competitions. Another date teams surely have circled is Tuesday, Oct. 19 as that’s when the 2021 Baldwin County Cross Country Championships will be run at Walter B. Williams Park. GMC Prep won three out of the four team titles last year with JMA taking the middle school girls championship.