MCDONOUGH — If Union Grove coach Eric Daugherty had his choice entering Thursday’s Henry County Cross Country Championships, his team would not be the favorite.
But that is not an option as teams meet at Locust Grove High to crown a champion.
All indications point toward the Union Grove boys and girls team leaving with the championship hardware.
“Union Grove would have to mess up really bad to not win it,” Eagle’s Landing coach Claud Spinks said.
“We are the favorite, but I think the races will be a lot closer than most people think,” Daugherty said.
Ola is expected to challenge Union Grove on the boys side while Eagle’s Landing could put up a fight on the girls’ side.
“Yes, I would rather be the underdog,” Daughtery said. “I told the runners that we can’t go on what we did last week. We have to come in there ready and focused.”
The boys’ team will be going for their second straight county title while the girls’ team is the five-time defending championship.
“We talked about not being the team that breaks the streak,” Daugherty said. “We told the girls that they should make it their goal to go through all four years of high school as the champion. I know they want to keep it going.”
This will be Union Grove’s first meet on the Locust Grove course. Daugherty said his team has seen the course’s layout, but has never ran on it.
The coach said he is glad the JV meet will be first so his runners can gauge the course.
“The course is sort of an unknown to us,” Daugherty said.
While team championships seem pretty much determined, coaches agree that the individual races are mostly up in the air, especially on the girls’ side.
Juells McLeod of Henry County and Union Grove’s Ellunde Montgomery are the favorites. However, Eagle’s Landing India Milling could also factor into the individual championship. The last time that McLeod, a senior, and Montgomery, a freshman, competed against each other, McLeod won by five seconds.
“I’m expecting a very interesting race,” Daugherty said.
Union Grove junior Brandon Cromer and Eagle’s Landing junior Brian Cato should battle for the boys title.
“Brandon has been running behind some good runners throughout his career,” Daugherty said. “He would like to go out a winner. We know Brian is having a real good junior year.”