Photo by Derrick Mahone
Union Grove freshman Ellunde Montgomery tries to catch her breath after winning the Henry County Cross Country Championship on Thursday on the Locust Grove High course.
Union Grove freshman Ellunde Montgomery got all the motivation she needed when her coach made note in the media she lost by five seconds to her biggest county competitor.
Montgomery more than made up for those five seconds at the Henry County Cross Country Championships on Thursday. She blazed the course at Locust Grove High with a time of 20 minutes, 12.43 seconds to claim the individual championship.
Henry County senior Ju-Ells McLeod was second at 20:45 in her first county championship since her freshman season.
During a previous head-to-head meeting between the runners, McLeod won the race by five seconds.
“I saw that in the paper, and it pushed me throughout the race,” Montgomery said.
“I’m very pleased at the way she ran the race,” Union Grove coach Eric Daugherty said. “I knew coming in that she had a shot.”
During the first mile of the race, Daugherty said they changed their race strategy. The plan was for Montgomery to stick with McLeod at the beginning of the race , and they try to overtake her at the end.
Montgomery jumped to the lead at the beginning and never looked back.
“She was in control the entire race,” Daugherty said. “That was really nice. I was a little concerned at first, but I saw that something was wrong with Ellunde.”
Once he since that, Daugherty give Montgomery the go-ahead to keep up her current pace.
“Ellunde was quick on her feet in taking control,” Daugherty said. “That was a good veteran move by a freshman.”
Montgomery paced the team as the Wolverines claim their fifth straight county title with 13 points. In addition to Montgomery, the Wolverines had four other runners to finish in the top 10 to hold off Eagle’s Landing, which finished second.
Kira Bohlke was third while Jessica Hubler was seventh. Rounding out the top 10 was Ally Adams at the eighth spot and Rebecca Hart in tenth place.
“It was a great race for all the girls,” Daugherty said. “We had some girls to step up and do well. It was great for our seniors to win other title. “
And he was also pleased with Montgomery.
“She has a chance to be a special runner,” Daugherty said. “We are hoping that she can win three more county titles.”
McLeod said she was disappointed, but was pleased to finish near the top.
“I started too slow,” she said. “The middle part of the race was OK, and the ending was good, but I still finished second.”
McLeod said nerves and the delayed start were contributing factors in her slow start. The race start was delayed as medical personnel attended to an injury runner on the course. This was McLeod first season since her freshman year that she has ran cross country.
She has been a standout track competitor on the summer circuit where she placed sixth in the nation in the 1,500-meters at the U.S.A Track and Field championships in Baltimore this past summer.