Jeff Hurndon Photography
Eagle’s Landing junior Brian Cato heads towards the finish line on Thursday to claim the Henry County Cross Country Championships on the Locust Grove High course.
Eagle’s Landing junior Brian Cato could sense something wasn’t right with Union Grove’s Brandon Cromer during the second mile of Thursday’s Henry County Cross Country Championships.
And Cato wasted little time seized the moment.
Henry County Cross Country Championships
Individual results: Brian Cato, Eagle’s Landing, 16:36; Brandon Cromer, Union Grove, 16:50; Tommy Hamlin, ELCA, 17:15; Erik Roberts, Ola, 17:23; Drew Smith, Union Grove, 17:24.
Team results: Union Grove 20, Ola 22, Eagle’s Landing 50, Dutchtown 47, Strong Rock 52.
“When we came around the edge on the second mile, I started seeing him slow down,” Cato said. “He was breathing real hard. From that moment, I decided it was my race.”
By the time Cato made his approach to the finish line, he was well ahead of his competitor.
With the crowd rooting him on, Cato crossed the finish line at 16 minutes, 36.9 seconds as a big smile flashed across his face.
“I just kind of felt that I could take it, and I just took it,” Cato said of the win. “He has been beating me all season. I felt like I deserved this win.”
Cromer, a senior, was second at 16:50 on the Locust Grove High course as he lead the Wolverines to their third straight team title.
This marked the third straight season that an Eagle’s Landing runner has claimed the individual title. In the previous took seasons, Zack Sims and Bailey Roth claimed the last two titles respectively.
Sims in now at Georgia, and Roth’s family moved out of state during the summer.
“Brian ran very well out here,” Eagle’s Landing coach Claud Spinks said. “I think it is finally clicking with him. Mentally, I think he finally gets it. He has learned to push through the pain.”
Cromer lead the first mile of the race, but the two were even approaching the second mile.
At that point, Cato took a slight lead before the runners headed into a wooded area. When they emerged, Cato was well ahead as the crowd began cheering at the finish line.
“It didn’t look like Brandon was at 100 percent, but Brian put himself in the position to win,” Spinks said. “I think this will give him a lot of confidence as we move forward towards region and state.”
Junior Tommy Hamlin of Eagle’s Landing Christian was third at 17:15 with Erik Roberts of Ola taking fourth place.
Union Grove amassed 20 points for the team title with four runners finishing in the top 10 to edge Ola, which had 22 points for second. Eagle’s Landing was third with 50 points.
In addition to Cato, Golden Eagles runners Leonard Mason was eighth (17:57) and Chavis Burns was 10th (18:05).
“The boys pull through for us,” Union Grove coach Eric Daugherty said. “It was a great team effort.”