The glass ceiling has been broken…

After years of climbing almost all over the Georgia state cross country podium — with plenty of fourths, thirds, and even some second -place finishes — the Holy Innocents’ girls Running Bears shattered the glass Saturday morning in Carrollton, winning the first cross country state title in the 27-year history of the school’s program.

Not only that, they did it in dominating fashion, as the girls took the crown by 21 points over the next team and by 60 points over the third. The boys did themselves proud as well, finishing second and also turning in the best performance at the state meet by any HIES squad.

Both girls and boys went into Saturday’s meet ranked #2. 

“I don’t think I’ve cried since I lost my dog back in 1982,” co-head coach Dunn Neugebauer said. “Still, what these kids did today made me break down on the spot. And as for the guys’ race, it wasn’t a case of ‘if this or that had happened.’ They ran great. Unfortunately, we just came up against a better team.”

Three girls earned All-State status (top-10 finisher), as Reese Neumann took fourth with a 19:49 over the 5K course; Hayden Puett was seventh in 20:21; and Reese Martin was right behind her in eighth at 20:28. 

This was huge, though the remaining runners providing the depth was just as big, as Emily Kallis (21:37), Maddie Poch (21:55), Erin Hill (22:25) and Jessica McNair (22:30) drove the final stake in the competitions’ hearts.

One earned All-State for the boys. Freshman Joe Sapone finished sixth in 17:14. Still, depth was huge for the boys as well, as the next six all came in just over a minute of his time. Brandon Sertl (17:54), Griffin Bittel (18:02), James Watson (18:05), William Welden (18:16), Parker Miles (18:20) and Liam Hill (18:21) all excelled. 

“You could name any one of the 14 who ran today, and every single one of them stepped up,” co-head coach Stephen Jayaraj said. “The name of the game is to peak here in Carrollton; I’d say it’s an understatement that we did just that.”

The teams advanced out of region last week after the boys successfully defended their title and the girls took second.

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