Nathan Solomon, one of the boys winners. Photo by Alex Burst.
Diamonds in the Rough Week 5: A Moment for the Seniors
This past week, we saw some of the fastest times of the year so far across Georgia. 19 of the 50 fastest boys' times and 18 of the 50 fastest girls' times of the season were run on this Saturday alone. With so many impressive performances, it can be easy to forget just how much work it takes to get to that point where a runner is able cross the finish line 15 to 20 minutes after the start of the race. Seeing runners breeze to the finish line ahead of their competitors demonstrates the disconnect between the amount of work they put in at practice and the seemingly effortless speed. For many seniors, they have spent several seasons of both XC and track honing their abilities in order to hit their peak performance when it's needed most. This week at Diamonds in the Rough, we are honoring five individuals from the class of 2022, plus one team whose top 7 is a majority of seniors, to award the effort that these athletes have put in behind the scenes for more than 3 years! Without further ado, here are the Diamonds in the Rough for week 5.
Strickland's 6th-place finish at the large Wayne County Home Meet showed that he is capable of competing with some of the best runners in 3A. Coming into the season with a 17:48 PR, Strickland continued his consistent improvement he has shown in all four seasons, first finishing in 8th place at Frazier-Hite Invitational (with 135 runners in the varsity race), and now finishing in 6th at Wayne County, a meet with 155 varsity runners, leading Southeast Bulloch to a solid 3rd place, close behind 2020 6A runner-up South Effingham.
In a virtual meet for 5A boys, Crosby ranks a solid 34th based on season best so far, but I think that drastically undersells the type of season he has had. In his first race of 2021, Crosby ran a near-PR 17:02 at Zack Wansley, then rattled off three straight victories in smaller Atlanta Public Schools meets before his most recent 5th-place finish at Wire2Wire Invitational. Crosby still hasn't run in a 5A state meet yet, but he will be key leading a Jackson squad a potential region title this year.
Solomon's senior season should stand as a testament to how consistent improvement throughout high school can culminate in stupendous success. Solomon has improved his personal best in the 5k, 1600, and 3200 each season he has run, but it seems that last track season he broke through with times of 4:21 and 9:30 at the 6A state meet. This fall, he's been unstoppable, with wins at LCA Invitational, Gwinnett County Championships, and most recently a victory at the Apple Hawkins Invitational. The 6A boys individual race will be very exciting, and Solomon might find himself at the front of it.
Boys Honorable Mention
Brian Sherwood, GMC Prep (1A Pub): 19:40 at Brentwood Invitational, 12th
John Ryan, Savannah Country Day (1A Pri): 17:26 at Skidaway High Tide Race, 1st
Jeff Davis (2A): 18:52 team average at Bulldog Invitational, 1st
Druid Hills (4A): 18:00 team average at Fowlkes Memorial Invitational, 2nd
Trent Bell, West Forsyth (7A): 15:43 at Southern Showcase, 31st
Matthews, a senior at Oconee County, ran her fastest time in over two years this weekend. She has been amazingly consistent throughout her high school career, running under 21:00 in 25 of her 29 total 5ks across four years. She's also improved her finish at the state meet each year, and after finishing 7th in 3A last year, Matthews is looking to lead Oconee County to a potential championship in 2021.
The Fowlkes Memorial Invitational was an under-the-radar competitive
meet this past weekend, with strong teams such as Decatur, Paideia, McIntosh,
and Druid Hills competing. Tabron was less than half of a second away from
topping the field, only getting edged out by freshman Shari Brown of Landmark
Christian. This was Tabron's second-fastest time of the season behind only her
Bob Blastow time. She has been a leader for the Bulldogs for several seasons
now, and looks to end her senior year on a high note.
Roswell (7A): 20:22 team average at Warpath Invitational, 3rd
Although this article is highlighting the accomplishments of seniors, this team in particular stood out as deserving attention. In MileSplit's extensive 7A state preview before the season, the Roswell girls were not mentioned among the top 14 contenders. So far this season, they have shattered even the most optimistic expectations with a dominant win in the Varsity race at North Georgia championships, a 6th-place finish in the Championship race at Carrollton, and most recently a 3rd place finish at Warpath with a fantastic 1-5 average of 20:22. This team isn't just young talent, either: seniors Tara Goff, Lynley Blocker, Gemma Mueller-Hill, and Alli Wiggins all finished in the top 7 at Warpath for the Hornets.
Girls Honorable Mention
Gashia Smith, Seminole County (1A Pub): 22:16 at Deerfield-Windsor Invitational, 9th
Sarah Jane Schulze, Savannah Country Day (1A Pri): 22:44 at Skidaway High Tide Race, 1st
Sydnie Henderson, Oglethorpe County (2A): 20:52 at Apple Hawkins Invitational, 10th
Central High School (4A): 21:10 average at Warhawk XC Preview, 1st
Kathryn Malone, Cambridge (6A): 20:12 at Wire2Wire XC Invitational, 4th