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Blessed Trinity looks ahead to state title defense
by Greg Oshust
August 28, 2014 09:54 AM | 4055 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Erin Gray / From left, Blessed Trinity girls' cross country runners Mary Claire Solomon, Katie McConnell, Kaleigh Evans and Maddie Heller.
Staff / Erin Gray / From left, Blessed Trinity girls' cross country runners Mary Claire Solomon, Katie McConnell, Kaleigh Evans and Maddie Heller.
After falling just short the last several years, the Blessed Trinity girls finally broke through last season with their first state cross country championship since 2006.

Now, the Titans look to successfully defend their Class AAA girls’ crown as they begin the 2014 season.

However, Blessed Trinity faces a formidable potential roadblock on their path to a second consecutive title with the arrival of old rival Westminster – the defending Class AA co-champions which moves up to AAA from AA this year and will join the Titans in Region 4AAA.

While Blessed Trinity appears to be ready to make another serious run at the state title, the Titans will face a tough challenge from Westminster – which edged out the Titans to win the AA championship in 2010 and 2011.

Blessed Trinity will also have some holes to fill after losing several of its stalwarts from last year’s championship team – including third-place individual state finisher Anna Gandolfo, who is now competing in cross country and track at Georgia, and fifth-place finisher Bailey Willett (Georgia Southern).

Fortunately for Blessed Trinity coach Ken Haughey, the Titans have a promising group of newcomers who he said have the potential to step in and make a difference this season.

“We lost our [No.] 1 and [No.] 2 [runners],” Haughey said. “We lost our 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 runners. But we’re not rebounding, we’ve reloaded with some super-quality freshmen and even with those [departing runners from last year] taken out, we’re still ranked highly – we’re ranked sixth in our class.”

Blessed Trinity has maintained its position among the state elite in girls’ cross country for a decade.

During the last 10 years, the Titans have won three state titles (2005, 2006, 2013), while finishing runner-up three times (2010, 2011, 2012) and third three times (2004, 2008, 2009).

Blessed Trinity will be boosted by the return of junior co-captain Mary Claire Solomon, who finished eighth individually in the AAA state meet last year.

Senior co-captain Katie McConnell – a 12th-place state finisher – also returns to bolster the lineup, along with junior Kaleigh Evans (14th at the state meet) and sophomore co-captain Maddie Heller.

The Titans are looking for freshmen Emma Rose Bagwell, Ana Rivadeneira and Carleigh Hyser to step in and fill the holes left by the departure of last year’s seniors.

Blessed Trinity got its 2014 season off to a strong start with a first-place finish at the Bob Blastow Early Bird in Douglasville last Saturday, finishing with 77 points to place ahead of St. Pius X and McIntosh (88 points each).

Solomon finished third with a time of 19 minutes, 10.63 seconds, placing behind Riverwood runners Anna Hayden (first, 18:38.94) and Elizabeth Graves (second, 18:45.78), while Bagwell was sixth (19:46.27) and Heller eighth (19:57.05).

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