Now, a new set of challenges await Pace as the Knights begin their first season back in AA since the 2007-08 school year.
“[Our runners are] motivated to see what they can do, moving up a classification,” Pace coach Jolie Cunningham said. “We’ve competed against some of these schools before. A long time back, we were in AA — back when it was the 1.5 multiplier [where private schools were assigned classifications based on their enrollment multiplied by 1.5] — so we have competed up in that division and the girls are ready to face that challenge, to see what they can do.”
Cunningham said her team is ready to go after going through a strong offseason training regimen.
“They have done an excellent job this summer with their training,” she said. “The veterans got the girls together all summer long on their own, just doing group runs and that type of thing. We’ll see what happens. They’re definitely up to the challenge.”
The Knights will be especially challenged in a competitive Region 6AA that includes defending AA co-champion Wesleyan and third-place Lovett as well as perennial state contender Greater Atlanta Christian.
“Wesleyan is strong year in and year out,” Cunningham said. “They’re always a tough team. Lovett is one of the top teams in AA and they’re always ready to compete as well.”
Pace will once again rely on a strong team concept, with several solid runners closely bunched together instead of one or two standouts leading the way.
“We don’t have that out-frontrunner and [the team] has bought into the concept of running as a pack,” Cunningham said.
“We will do the same thing this year. We train as a pack, which is very beneficial for them — because they can work as a group and they can push each other as a group. They are confident in each other, because they train that way. So when it comes to race time, they’re gong to be right there with each other. I think they feel confident in that, because it was successful for them last year.”
Pace lost three of its key runners from last year’s state championship team — Callie Cunningham, Emilia Tripodi and Elle Stang.
However, the Knights have most of their top runners coming back, with sophomore Julia Ross, seniors Lacey O’Sullivan, Hannah Kelly, Katie Nelson and Caroline Mills and junior Jilly Paul joined by promising freshman Molly Richardson.