JMA, GMC varsities win Baldwin Co. Cup

Sep. 22—The eighth running of the Baldwin County Cross Country Championships took place Tuesday.

Walter B. Williams Jr. Park continued its role as the traditional home of the event that pits runners from local middle and high schools against one another. The teams are accustomed to competing in the same field at various meets, but the Baldwin County Championship is locals-only.

Hot temperatures greeted runners Tuesday, so just about everyone remained in their respective tents while waiting for their start times. The competition is usually held in mid-October, but necessary meets scheduled for then forced a move to earlier in the calendar. Even with the change, the Oak Hill Middle School girls and boys teams could not attend because they had a league meet to run in.

The middle school boys got the day started with a small field of GMC Prep and John Milledge Academy runners taking on the two-mile course. The young Bulldogs would run away with the county title, posting a perfect score of 15. Runners' finishing placements are added up to derive the team score, so the lower the number in cross country, the better. Eighth-grader Grady Meier paced the winning team with a time of 13:32, which was a whole minute and a half faster than second place.

Next up, GMC completed the middle school team sweep with sixth-grader Josie Hardage (16:44) and eighth-grader Sofia Wood (17:18) taking the top two places. John Milledge's Kinslee Pruett came in third at 17:40.

The Running Bulldogs kept up their winning ways in the high school boys race, though not at the individual level. Title of top high school boys runner in Baldwin County belongs to Baldwin High junior Emanuel Dixon for a second consecutive year. He blazed the trail with a 5K time of 18:19. Dixon's senior teammate Nathan Mitchell finished third at 19:40 while GMC Prep sophomore Julian Council was sandwiched in the middle at second (19:33). The Braves won the high school boys Baldwin County Cup last year, and likely would have defended their champ status with a deeper roster.

The Lady Trojans of John Milledge played spoiler to GMC Prep's attempt to sweep the entire day. JMA was led by senior Piper Cowart's 25:17 second-place finish to earn back-to-back Baldwin Cups. The other big storyline in the varsity girls race was who would take the top individual prize. Tuesday would be the first time in at least five years someone not named Jada Warren (GMC Prep) or Emery Ryan (JMA) could lay claim to top varsity girls runner. Baldwin junior Jasmine Williams earned that right comfortably, crossing the finish line with a time of 24:08.

The Baldwin County Championship is a big milestone in the season, but bigger races await the local teams as they continue gearing up for region and state.