It didn’t happen the way coach Ryan McClay had envisioned it, but St. Pius won its second straight boys’ Class AAA state cross country championship.
With one of its top five runners sidelined with an injury and another weakened with an illness, four sophomores and a junior led the Golden Lions to a one-point victory over second-place North Hall in Carrollton on Nov. 5.
“This was supposed to be a down year for us but everyone bought into putting the work in during the offseason,” McClay said. “When you start a winning tradition, the kids want to be a part of it and are willing to put in the work.”
The performance of sophomore Joseph Ferrugia was an example of that commitment that McClay said he will use to inspire future runners. The No. 7 runner on varsity most of the season, Ferrugia placed 25th overall and was fourth among St. Pius runners at state.
“He really stepped up and saved our season,” McClay said. “You never know who will be the hero of the day. Last year [Ferrugia] saw those kids win state and saw them get their rings. He really worked hard in the off season and he was doing all that just to be No. 7.”
St. Pius placed its top five runners among the first 27 to finish, while North Hall’s fifth runner (the final runner to score) was 36th.
Austin Sprague placed third overall with a time of 16:05.09 for the Golden Lions while Calvin Tirrell was seventh in 16:34.23. Andrew Anastasiades came in at No. 18 and Chris Beach was No. 27.
The championship marked a successful day for schools in DeKalb County at the state meet. Marist placed second in the AAAA boys meet while Lakeside was sixth.
The War Eagles won the Class AAAA girls’ state title, with five runners placing among the top 30. Also, Dunwoody finished third in the team standings, just six points out of second place.
St. Pius finished second in the Class AAA girls’ meet, with two runners among the top 18.
Here is a list of the top 20 individual DeKalb finishers:
AAAA boys: 2. Michael Thurston, Marist, 16:11.85; 13. Jacques Williams, Southwest DeKalb, 16:50.28; 16. Daniel Navarro, Marist, 16:59.43; 17. Brent Reynolds, Lakeside, 16:59.80.
AAA boys: 3. Austin Sprague, St. Pius, 16:05.09; 7. Calvin Tirrell, St. Pius, 16:34.23; 14. Andrew Whetten, Druid Hills, 17:01.33; 16. Ray Lumb, Druid Hills, 17:03.10; 18. Andrew Anastasiades, St. Pius, 17:05.63.
AAAA girls: 3. Alex Cameron, Dunwoody, 19:07.54; 4. Morgan Ilse, Marist, 19:09.01; 10. Greciana Cooper, Southwest DeKalb, 19:48.54; 11. Kate Northrop, Marist, 19:57.19; 20. Myriam Shehata, Marist, 20:25.53.
AAA girls: 11. Devon Dabney, St. Pius, 20:20.32; 18, Tessa Schwarze, St. Pius, 20:42.09.