Senior Salute: Thomas Mellendorf From Union County


5k XC:  17:47.10

800m:  2:12.00

400m:  53.60 

What were some of the highlights of your high school cross country and track careers?

Even though I have had a blessed four years of cross country and almost four years of track, the last two years for me really started to take off. In cross country I've consistently dropped a minute each year and managed to get a PR of 17:46 this year. On November 3, 2018 my team and I won our school's first ever team state championship for any sport. I remember I was with four of my teammates and we sprinted around the place to try and find everyone else. This past season we got second at state and were really close but just missed it. For track though, my favorite highlight was from last year where I changed from the 3200m to the 400m. In 10th grade I finally managed to run under a minute 400m, but last year (my junior year) by the end I ran a 53.24. 

Did you encounter any struggles or adversity along the way that you had to overcome?

There were not really any physical struggles I had to deal with other than a minor ankle injury, but the biggest thing that challenged me was the mental game. It's hard trying to deal with a time that wasn't what you expected or wanted; however, my teammates and coaches have always helped me out with that. Transitioning from cross country to track and back several times was very difficult for me. The more I improved, the more I worried that it would be hard to come back better than I was before. Again though, my teammates and coaches were always there to point me in the right direction.

Aside from the competition, what was the best thing about being a part of your school's program?

The number one thing about being on the cross country and track teams at Union County is being surrounded by teammates who are working hard and care about getting better. Coaches and runners are motivated making it important to keep your head up as you face obstacles. I would change nothing about my experience with these teams because of how much they have impacted me.

Are there any coaches or teammates that you've worked with over the past four years that you'd like to thank?

First off, my cross country coaches, Coach Paige Dyer and Coach Beau Kelley have been my cross country coaches since 8th grade. They have not only encouraged me and gotten me to where I'm at now, but they have helped me develop character that helps me outside the sport. My track coaches, Coach Beau Kelley and Coach Paul McBride have helped me shift around throughout the years and try to find the best events for me. Also track coaches Coach Gabe Miller and Coach Wade Hodges have helped teach us discipline and to be supportive of the team as a whole. My teammates Lance Underwood and Steven Seiler showed me how to lead by example and made me want to continue getting better and be a role model like them. The last people I want to thank are my current teammates, Hunter Hartzog, Malachi Patrick, and Luke Gambrell. They have pushed me and each other to work hard and to want to achieve the highest goals for the team. Without one of these people, everything would have turned out different for me. I cannot thank them enough for what they've done for me all these years. 

How are you coping with COVID-19 and the looming possibility that your HS track career might very well be over?

My thoughts on everything going on right now is that it is what it is. It doesn't mean we should stop working hard even though track is over for us seniors. I had the highest hopes for this season and wanted to go to state for the first time and hopefully place, but it just didn't turn out that way. I've been blessed to have had such a great team, coaches, and supporters for all of high school and that alone makes everything perfect for me.

What are your plans and goals for the future? Do you intend on continuing with the sport in college or in another capacity? 

I'm always gonna keep running. I want to continue to get faster and hopefully get in the 16s for a 5k. Next year, I'll be going to Young Harris College to continue running cross country and potentially track in the spring as an individual. I favor cross country more, but I still want to improve in track. I eventually want to get under a 50 second 400m and close to a two minute 800m. 

What advice would you give to a younger athlete who's hoping to have a successful and enjoyable high school career? 

My advice for an upcoming athlete is to not lose hope and to just keep working hard. I started on the slower side of the pack when I started running in sixth grade. I haven't stopped since, but it was only a little while ago when things started to take off. It's different for everybody and you need to focus on what's important and enjoy it.