Champs Prevail: Ladies XC Warriors Take First Place At State


NAHS XC Parent

The NAHS Cross Country girls celebrate a victorious 6A State title for the first time in 21 years

For the first time in 21 years, the Ladies Cross Country Warriors are state champions. Led by Junior Clara Heppner in second place and Sophomore Catherine Townsend in third, the ladies varsity team capped off a successful season with a dominant showing of Dub strength and spirit. After losing four top ten boys to college, the male dubs were able to pull through with a podium win at State, solidifying their place as a resolute contender in the 6A region. The NAHS team, led with a consistent culture of unity, successfully ended an unforgettable season of Warriors cross country.

The 2021 season brought a unique blend of runners to North Atlanta, including speedy foreign exchange students, homeschooled students, and students who walk North Atlanta’s 11 stories every day. Sisters Clara and Heidi Heppner remained dedicated to their new teammates, holding 2nd and 10th place spots at state. Exchange student Ebba Sjoberg finished her season with an impressive personal record, affirming the Swede’s ability to exceed expectations in the sport. The girls team was united in their diverse backgrounds, building a successful team from a group of passionate, like-minded athletes. “Our resilience as a unit this year was undeniable,” said sophomore and top runner Catherine Townsend. “Our consistency in teamwork throughout the season is really what set us apart from other leading teams.”

Although the NAHS girls were able to physically embody the spirit of warrior success with a title win, the diligent boys team showed up and showed out in their own regards. Placing 3rd with a win in the 6A region, top varsity guys closed gaps existing in early season races to achieve their first-ever state podium placement. “This year was a challenge, particularly without some of our top Seniors from the 2020 season,” said junior and top boys runner Sumner Kirsch. “Despite changes in the lineup, the boys team really showed out with our record placement this year.” 

Coaching changes led to the implementation of a winning culture for the Dubs. Former collegiate runner Matt Farrell debuted his coaching career at NAHS during the 2021 track season, and was invited to lead the Cross Country team to new heights after the departure of former coach Anthony McCay in 2020. Head coach Dr. Cluster, though not having the running experience of Farrell, brought and implemented a culture emphasizing dedication, driving the success of returning and new runners alike. “One of the biggest things that I wanted to stress this season was culture,” said Farrell. “Results, no matter how talented you are, cannot be achieved unless everyone has bought into the same goal, and has fun working towards those goals with their teammates.”

Unified by a network of supportive alumni and parents, the Dubs were raised up by the resolute bond of the Warrior community. Their success at the state level provides reason to celebrate for the North Atlanta athletic department, who plans to honor both podium placements with honorary jackets, in addition to a ring ceremony for the girls team. Motivated by a historic win, NAHS runners are looking forward to pursuing further titles in seasons to come.