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Brookwood's boys take fourth straight Stage Races crown

High school cross country runners Aaron Scherf of Allatoona, Fernando Cruz of Collins Hill, and Ryan Humble of Walton lead the pack during the Varsity 2 race during the Stage Races at River Green Saturday in Duluth. The stage races are 10 races, each two miles in length and consist of both varsity and junior varsity runners on a flat grass course at River Green.

High school cross country runners Aaron Scherf of Allatoona, Fernando Cruz of Collins Hill, and Ryan Humble of Walton lead the pack during the Varsity 2 race during the Stage Races at River Green Saturday in Duluth. The stage races are 10 races, each two miles in length and consist of both varsity and junior varsity runners on a flat grass course at River Green.

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High school cross country runners race around the course during the Stage Races at River Green Saturday in Duluth. The stage races are 10 races, each two miles in length and consist of both varsity and junior varsity runners on a flat grass course at River Green.

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Brookwood High School cross country runner Chad Seder races around the course during the Stage Races at River Green Saturday in Duluth. The stage races are 10 races, each two miles in length and consist of both varsity and junior varsity runners on a flat grass course at River Green.

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Spencer Sackett of Mill Creek High School waves the school flag while cheering on his teammates during the Stage Races at River Green Saturday in Duluth. The stage races are 10 races, each two miles in length and consist of both varsity and junior varsity runners on a flat grass course at River Green.

— Nine months after winning the AAAAA team state cross-country championship, the Brookwood boys showed they weren't going to give up the title easily as they won their fourth-consecutive Walton/Peachtree Ridge Stage Races at the Rivergreen Complex.

The Broncos (10 points) easily beat out second-place Walton (22), while Mill Creek (25) was third, St. Pius X (27) fourth and Woodstock (35) fifth.

On the girls' side Harrison nipped the Broncos by three points, scoring 11, while Brookwood scored 14. Woodstock (30) was third, while Walton (31) and Lassiter (33) rounded out the top five.

"This is a great low-key start to the season," said Broncos' head coach Ben Dehnke. "It's good race experience and allows runners to work on tactics."

Both Brookwood's boys and Harrison's girls showed consistency in all five stages with both taking home two stage wins, albeit not in the final stages.

For the No. 1-ranked Broncos, Kiseon Smith (10:16) won Stage 1, while Trevor Turner (10:13) did the same in the second stage. Drew Vanderwood (10:15) took second in the third stage, and Kevin Marsh (10:11) and Morgan Malanoski (10:05) took third-place finishes in Stage four and five respectively.

For Harrison, it was stopping the Collins Hill girls from taking their 10th-consecutive win at the event, winning the first girls title for a Cobb County school since the event was held at Boiling Park in Canton a decade ago.

The main difference in the Stage Races is that it's a 3,200-meter race, as opposed to a 5,000-meter race at all other meets. Each stage went off 15 minutes apart with Stage 5 reserved for each team's fastest runners. However, Stage 5 didn't end up being the fastest of the stages. That feat went to Stage 4 in which St. Pius X runner Calvin Tirsoll was the only runner to break the 10-minute mark, running the course in 9:55.

"It shows how much the race was about tactics," Dehnke said. "In Stage 4, a few runners went out and pushed the pace, while Stage 5 saw guys waiting for someone to make a move."

In Stage 5, won by Columbus' Adam Jones (10:01), 20 runners were still bunched up in the lead at the one-mile mark. A half-mile later, the lead group was down to five, led by Jones.

"The nice thing about this event is that runners are isolated," Dehnke said. "They can't depend on their teammates for strategy. They have to think on the fly."