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Wesleyan sends coach out on top

Brandon Ramsey hugs Chris Duvall as they are surrounded by teammates after crossing the finish line during the Class A cross country state championships in Carrollton on Saturday.

Brandon Ramsey hugs Chris Duvall as they are surrounded by teammates after crossing the finish line during the Class A cross country state championships in Carrollton on Saturday.

CARROLLTON -- The Wesleyan boys cross country team wanted to make sure coach Brian Kennerly's final meet for the Wolves was a memorable one.

Led by Brandon Ramsey's third-place finish, the Wolves placed five runners in the top 20 to score 48 points and win the Class A state championship on Saturday at Carrollton High School.

"I feel the reason that got us motivated is this is our coach's last cross country season. I feel like a lot of it was for him," Ramsey said.

"My race was for him because I feel like he's been a dad to me. He's taught everything I know about cross country."

Kennerly is leaving the Norcross private school to become the headmaster at Brookstone, a private school in Columbus. Saturday's state championship was the sixth for Wesleyan under Kennerly, who has been the head coach for the Wolves since 2000. In addition, to the six state championships, Wesleyan has also won the last 10 region titles.

"It's a bittersweet moment," Kennerly said of the title. "It's sad and exciting at the same time."

Athens Christian, which was favored to win the meet, took second with 73 points. Providence Christian was third with 123 and Pace was fourth with 131.

It's the second time in three years the Stars have finished third.

"I thought our guys could do it," Providence coach Scott Williams said. "In the rankings though we were ranked fourth or fifth most of the year, they didn't think we really could, but I knew if we showed up the way we should we could have it."

The Stars were led by freshmen James Watkins (17:19) and Jonathan Duffie (17:38), who finished 14th and 22nd, respectively.

"They really stepped up in their first state meet, so that helped out a lot," Williams said.

Senior Eric Mills (17:42) was 24th and Keith Kreutzer (17:58) was 33rd. The Stars return five of their seven runners next season and will get their No. 1 runner back, who missed the season with an injury.

"I'm looking forward to the next coulple of years," Williams said.

Ramsey's time of 16 minutes, 29 seconds was not enough to claim the individual title won by Eagles Landing Christian's Luke Baker (15:51).

"Luke Baker is a phenominal runner and I knew I was going to be happy taking second," Ramsey said. "I got third, but we won state as a team. On some levels that's better than winning an individual title."

All seven of the Wolves set new PRs. Bradley Gossett (16:53) was seventh, Christopher Duvall (17:10) was 11th, Drew Sutton (17:16) was 13th, Takim Williams (17:25) placed 17th, Austin Gritters (17:41) finished 23rd and Timothy Marsh (17:44) was 26th.

"It's incredibale," Kennerly said. "We needed every guy to go out and do their very best and they did. They had the best times of their career's so far."

Wesleyan placed sixth in the Class A girls race with 164 points and Providence was ninth with 214. Our Lady of Mercy won the team title with 65 points.

Erika Ramsey, last year's state champion, was Wesleyan's top runner with a time of 19:57 to finish fourth. Mallory MacGill (20:58) placed 12th.

Providence was led by Lauren Kelly (21:20), who was 15th and Hebron's Stephanie Murphy (21:24) was 17th.

Buford's Matt Johnson placed 15th in the Class AA boys race with a time of 17:43 as the Wolves placed 13th as a team.

Abigail Mistretta's (20:12) 10th place finish and Lauren Kester's (20:39) 13th place gave Greater Atlanta Christian a seventh-place finish in the Class AA girls.