published Monday, November 7th, 2011

Heritage girls race to the top

Heritage cross-country coach Jeremy Wynne noted an "anxious" feeling as he and the Lady Generals stood on the podium after the Class AAA state meet in Carrollton on Saturday. Winners aren't announced until that point, so as Heritage, St. Pius X, Allatoona and Columbus stood on the podium, all Wynne knew was that his team was one of the top four finishers.

As the latter three names were called as fourth, third and second place, that anxiety turned into excitement.

The Lady Generals claimed the school's first-ever state championship Saturday, winning the meet by scoring 101 points, 27 ahead of St. Pius and 30 ahead of Allatoona.

"It really wasn't as close as we thought," Wynne said. "I let the girls know that I was proud of them no matter where we finished; I knew we were up there, but I didn't realized that we had won until they called out St. Pius [as runner-up]."

Natalie Espinoza-Hensley was the team's top finisher, taking ninth in the five-kilometer event with a time of 20 minutes, 14.26 seconds. Mallory Edwards was 15th in 20:37.78, while Caitlin Craft finished 19th in a time of 20:43.38.

"Natalie has been our leader as far as running all year," Wynne said. "We have a lot of leaders in practice, but she's such a unique athlete that has a lot of natural talent."

The Lady Generals only lose senior Brandi Thompson, so the first-year head coach feels good heading into next season, as well.

"It's just a very special feeling," he said. "For it to be my first year, it's a great, positive experience to be able to teach these kids, and winning a championship, being the first in the history of the school is even more special.

"It's a great group of girls that won -- an amazing group. It's been quite a year."

Dalton's Bekah Houston finished 14th in 20:37.01. Camilla Loggins of Gordon Lee was 17th in the Class A race, running a time of 20:49.75.

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