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Derrick Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel Chapel Hill junior Zaria White had a time of 20 minutes, 37.48 seconds to win the Region 5-AAAA title on Thursday at Clinton Nature Preserve.

Zaria White starting running two years ago as a social event.

She followed a friend to practice one day as a chance to socialize, but little did she realize that running would be addictive.

White became hooked on running, and started dedicating her free time to getting better.

The hard work finally paid off for White and her Chapel Hill teammates at Thursday’s Region 5-AAAA Cross Country Championships. White, a junior, had a time of 20 minutes, 37.48 seconds to win the individual title as the Panthers finished runner-up as a team.

“I really so excited about this,” White said. “Last year I got second, and I was thinking that maybe I could sneak end and win it this year. I was just running off of fear of losing.”

Teammates Wallis Adair placed second at 21:24 and Ilene Soleyn went 21:44 to place third overall.

Cartersville won the team title with 38 points to edge out Chapel Hill, which compiled 39 points. LaGrange was third with 69 points.

On the boys’ side, Chapel Hill had 57 points to finish runner-up to LaGrange (40 points).

The Panthers top finisher was Michael Daniels, who went 17:01 to place sixth overall.

“I’m super excited for our team and Zaria,” Chapel Hill coach Kelly Williams said. “I’m definitely excited about the future because we only graduate one of our top runners. She started running and got hooked. Zaria is the total package when it comes to school, athletics and dedication. She is just a positive kid for this team.”

Kelly acknowledges that next week at the Class AAAA meet will be tough with private schools St. Pius, Marist and Blessed Trinity in the classification.

She says the team has set its goal for a top-10 finish at the meet in Carrollton.

“State is another ball game,” Williams said. “Our classification is loaded. Our goal is to place in the top-10 and get some momentum going into track season. I’m proud of the direction of our cross country program.”

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