LaGrange girls cross-country team finishes top 15 at state meet

Published 4:53 pm Monday, November 6, 2023

The standards have been reset for the girl’s cross-country team at LaGrange High. The talented group of girls finished third in their region to qualify for state, where they finished 13th in AAAA during the state meet this past Saturday.

“Out of 60 schools we finished better than 75% of them,” Leverett said. “I’m really proud of them for finishing the year as a top-15 team.

“The greatest honor is to be included among the elites and see what you got at one of the hardest courses in the state.”

Just at the state meet the Grangers finished higher than Southeast Whitfield, Cherokee Bluff, Woodland, Westover, Islands, Wayne County, Southwest Dekalb, Luella, Bainbridge, Cairo, West Laurens, Perry, Fayette County, Southeast Bulloch and Shaw.

It was a season full of progress. From personal records being broken to the team winning three races, the girls have done everything Leverett has asked of them. 

The state meet at Carrollton is on a brutally difficult course with plenty of elevation changes and twists and turns to keep the girls on their heels.

The Grangers were led to their top-15 finish by team MVP Grace Johnson — a Troup High transfer who has made a big impact in her first season as a Granger.

Amelia Gale, Melannie Salomon, Kalynne Pressler, Callie Morris, and Laila Martin were all key contributors to this year’s team.

“Amelia started off as our fifth fastest runner at the start of the year and finished the season as our second fastest,” Leverett said. “Junior Melannie Salomon finished third for us and I was really impressed with her effort.”

The program started the year with more runners, but attrition, injuries and other sports have led to the numbers dwindling a bit.

This group of girls has formed an unlikely bond. The girls come from different athletic backgrounds, different grades and bring different attitudes to the team, but the squad has forged a bond that makes them feel like family.

“They get along great, they run together, they really are all friends,” Leverett said. “They really have a synergy, and all of them that are not graduating told me they would be back next year.”

Many of them will return for next season. Leverett sees the program expanding to include a JV girl’s team starting next fall.

Leverett is in his second season as head coach. He guided the boys to the state championship meet last season but felt his girls handled the pressure better.

“The boys felt the pressure and had an adrenaline crack, while the girls were able to hold a lot in the tank for that last stretch where they went 100%,” Leverett said.

With LaGrange dropping down from 4A to 3A next season, the cross-country team may have an even better chance to win a region crown and break into the top 10 in the state.

“Dropping down a classification does bode well for our competition,” Leverett said. “We will be on the larger scale of teams in 3A next year, so that means we can potentially make a run at region.”

Leverett is the head coach, but assistant coach Patrick Calcutt is just as important to the performance of the team.

Other major accomplishments for this season’s Grangers team include a top-25 Sophomore in AAAA, Region 4-4A coach of the year, 4th most improved runner in GHSA, multiple individual Top-10 Finishes, 1st place at Dauset Dash, 1st Place at Southland Raider Runs, 1st place at County Championship.