The 2013 season has been more of the same for the Lions, with their girls’ team ranked third and boys’ squad fourth in their respective Ga- Milesplit.com AA state polls last week.
It has been an impressive run for the Lovett cross country program, with the girls earning a spot on the state meet awards podium with a top-four finish the last 13 years in a row and the boys doing likewise for the past 10 straight years and 11 out of the last 12.
In last year’s state meet, the girls’ team finished third in Class AA, while the boys’ squad placed fourth.
For Lovett coach Jimmy Jewell, who has coached the boys’ team for 15 years and its girls’ squad for eight seasons, the Lions’ method of training has played a big role in their success.
“We do our best to try to train the kids how to run consistently and to, like any coach would say, teach them the importance of running a good pace and as the race draws to an end, be able to push to the limit,” Jewell said. “We work a lot on pace and developing their ability to interpret the pace they are running.”
The Lovett girls have looked especially promising with top-five finishes in four of their first five meets this season – winning the Kosh Classic at Westminster Aug. 17, runner-up at the Clara Bowl Berry Invitational in Rome Aug. 31, fifth at the Marist Coach Benson Double Dip Sept. 7 and third at the Westover Invitational in Albany Oct. 5.
“Our biggest goal for the girls is to stay healthy,” Jewell said. “We believe we have a shot at competing for the state championships and, hopefully, we can do it.”
Senior Hailey Branch, who ran a personal-best 18 minutes, 53 seconds to finish fifth at the Westover Invitational, and freshman Serena Tripodi lead a girls’ squad that also includes juniors Melissa Houghton and Tessa Allen and freshman Mara Davis.
The Lovett girls have also benefitted from the leadership of senior co-captains Anna Collins and Clara Easterlin.
“They’ve been such great leaders this year, getting the girls to focus and work hard,” Jewell said. “It’s been a joy to watch them work with the other girls.”
Youth and inexperience are the biggest factor for a Lovett boys’ team that features 17 freshmen.
“The boys are young and even our younger boys are a little bit inexperienced,” Jewell said. “We’re kind of in a trying-to-improve year or, to use a cliché, a rebuilding year. We’re making strides to improve.”
Senior co-captains Connor Reynolds and Matthew Cartledge lead an otherwise young Lovett boys’ lineup that includes freshmen Nicholas Klavohn, Peyton Bogard and Sam Pritchard and junior Mac Major.