GRIFFIN -- The Newton boys cross country team opened the season with a bang Saturday in the Jaguar Invitational at Spalding High School.
The Rams placed four of their runners in the top 13 and edged out Pike County and Heritage for first place in the eight-team field. Newton tallied 59 points to finish one point in front of Pike County and four points in front of Heritage.
Newton sophomore Alex Grady, sophomore Gabriel Alvarez and senior Jamal Green had strong showings, as they placed second, third and fourth overall in the race. Grady turned in a time of 18 minutes, 14 seconds followed by Alvarez (19:06) and Green (19:20).
Senior Dominique Destafano finished 13th for Newton (20:22) and sophomore Michael Atunzu rounded out the team's top five in 37th (22:27).
"We had a good start to the season and we were happy to start the season off with a team win for the boys. We had a strong showing up front with our top boys, but we're definitely going to need all the guys in the front and back to come on strong in order to compete against the big dogs this season," Newton coach Aaron Robinson said. "On an individual level, Jamal Green is showing outstanding leadership on a daily basis and it's coming through in races. Alex Grady is a first time cross country runner who put in a lot of time running leading up to the season. It's nice to see it paying off."
Sophomore Zach Whiten was Heritage's top finisher in seventh at 19:39. Junior Victor Beltran (11th, 20:09), freshman Malik McCrary (12th, 20:15), sophomore Thomas Donaldson (15th, 20:39) and junior Nathan Kirksey (18th, 21:04) completed the Patriots' top five.
The Rockdale boys finished eighth overall. Sophomore Chazz Mapp paced the Bulldogs with a 20th-place finish in 21:13, while junior Forrest Freeman was 24th in 21:21.
In the girls race, Heritage placed fifth overall with 106 points while Newton took sixth with 136 points. Host Spalding won the event with 44 points.
Heritage senior Kelly Nangle was the top local finisher in ninth place at 24:16. Newton senior Desiree Hines placed 13th in 25:09 followed by Rockdale junior Caitlyn VanHeest in 14th (25:25) and Heritage senior Shea Smith in 15th (25:33).
The Rockdale girls did not have enough runners to post a team score.
At the Luella Twilight Invitational in Locust Grove, the Eastside boys and girls both placed back in the pack in their 2010 debuts.
Michael Johnson-Weeks had the Eastside boys top finish in 47th at 20:22.73, while Ace Cook was next in 52nd at 20:34.30. Overall, the Eagles placed 10th in the boys race.
Blakely Smith produced the best finish for the Eastside girls in 53rd at 26:35.10. Teammate Naomi Denby finished two spots behind in 55th (26:41.87).