LaGrange High girls cross-country team finishes third in region, qualifies for state

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The LaGrange High girls cross-country team missed out on a chance to make the AAAA state meet last season, but the girls changed the script this year. Last weekend, the Grangers finished third in region 4-4A to book a spot at the state meet.

“I’m very proud of all of us,” junior Melannie Salomon said. “I always had that feeling that we would qualify, but it feels good. Coach (Blase) Leverett has been telling us all year that we would, so that has been our mindset all year.”

It was a heroic effort for the girls, who compete in one of the toughest regions in AAAA. Going up against such high levels of competition pushes the Grangers even harder.

“It is satisfying when you beat people or keep up with people that you never thought you would be able to,” freshman Kalynne Pressler said. “That can really boost your self confidence.”

While other teams in the region, like Starr’s Mill, have established programs with a pipeline of runners coming in every year to replace the elite ones leaving. LaGrange has no such luxury as Leverett recruits experienced and inexperienced girls from the halls of LaGrange High.

Pressler has been running since the second grade and transferred to LaGrange from up north while Salomon is a first-year runner.

“Coach Leverett is my history teacher, and he kept trying to get me to come out and finally I did,” Salomon said. “It really isn’t as bad as people think it is, and I’ve had a lot of fun.”

This is not some rag-tag team cobbled together. Leverett works the girls hard, but often joins them running at practice which makes him feel like a real part of the team.

“He is very entertaining and energetic,” Pressler said. “He can really relate to a lot of the problems we face out there because he runs with us as well.”

“H’es very supportive and knows how to motivate us,” Salomon said. “He knows how ton push you right up to your limit.”

The team has really bonded as a whole this year.

“We lift each other up, but we also compete against each other in a healthy way,” Pressler said. 

The girls are happy with what they have accomplished so far, but are not exactly satisfied.

Now, the girls will truly get the chance to compete against the best of the best. The team is both exhilarated and nerve racked.

“It is scary, but they are in as much pain as we are on the course,” Salomon said. “Once you’re out there running, you don’t think about that. It’s all about your mindset.”

Those bus rides to the meets is often where the athletes get their minds right. The Grangers have two different approaches to bus rides depending on the departure time.

“If we wake up early, it’s super quiet because we are all cold, and that is our time to get a nap,” Pressler said. “If it’s a little later, I bring the speaker and blast music.”

The Grangers will compete at the state meet in Carrollton on Nov. 6th at 11:45 a.m. in Carrollton. While Salomon and Pressler are two of the strongest runners on the team, they will not be alone on Nov. 6. 

Grace Johnson, Callie Morris, Laila Martin, Ameila Gale, Lainey Simmons and Alandra Burgin have all been key members of the team. Simmons and Burgin will not be able to compete due to injuries but will be traveling to support the team. The other six will be running with the top five finishers being used for the overall team score. 

“I hope we can all get our personal records here and place in state,” Salomon said. “We have run this course before, so I think our main goal should be to get better times than we got last time we went there.”