Path to the Podium: 2021 Jeff Davis Boys Cross Country

Jeff Davis on the podium. Photo by Coach Meg Wood

Path to the Podium: Jeff Davis Boys, by Andy Christie

Looking at State Results is interesting enough, for us fans of high school cross country. However, finding out what it took for teams to reach that point makes those places and point totals that much more fascinating.

Making the podium (top 4) as a team and earning a State trophy is the goal for many teams when they start preparing for XC after Track ends.  Whether it is the thrill of a program making it for the first time, the pride of keeping a tradition alive, or the exhilaration of a return to the top after an absence, climbing the stairs to the podium is the dream of harriers hoping to end their season on a high note. 

We've asked coaches to reflect on what it took to get their team to the podium at the 2021 Georgia State Cross Country Meet. Next up is Coach Dustin Allen of Jeff Davis High School to talk about his boys 4th place finish in the Class AA State Meet. 

XC 2020 

During the 2020 season, we only had one senior, a runner that started about tenth at the beginning of the season. By Region, he had worked hard and made his way to varsity, holding on to the seventh spot. His contagious positive attitude really set the foundation on what outlook to have at practice and at the meets. At State, right before the start of the race, it started raining and when many other teams looked at the rain negatively, I looked on as my guys were embracing the rain, using it as motivation to be excited. They were able to finish fourth in 2020 and with only losing one senior, they were anticipating 2021. 

Winter 2020 

One of my favorite sayings is, "it's not what you do from August to November, it's what you do from November to August." The juniors in 2020 were in sixth grade when we started the cross country program, so they have heard that phrase their entire running careers and it finally started to stick. Strava is a wonderful app that provides me an opportunity to see that they were still running and that they knew the offseason is where champions were made. 

Track 2021 

In the Spring, my guys have two passions, soccer and track. Several of them are torn on which to pursue in the Spring. Two of my top five thoroughly enjoyed the new 4x800 event on the track and the other three in my top five spent their Spring on the soccer pitch. 

Summer 2021 

This Summer I knew the commitment was there among my team, so I challenged them to put in the miles. The Summer of 2021 we had the most miles run as a team in the history of the program. Throughout the Summer, it was becoming clear that the 2021 team wanted to be the best team we have ever had. 

XC Season 2021

Going into every meet we set something we call, "Squad Goals." These are team and individual goals for things we want to accomplish in each race. In August the first goal is to have the fastest first race. Not having one of my top five runners due to Covid, I did not think this goal was achievable. However, with one of the runners who ran the most miles this Summer running one second off his PR we were able to achieve the fastest first race goal at our home race the Peach State Preview. Later in August, we went down to Jacksonville to run at Cecil Field and hit a road bump. The runner who was coming back from Covid ran his first race and ran decently, but ended up in the hospital in Jacksonville with dehydration and heat exhaustion. He never really achieved his status from the previous year as our number one runner; however, he played a key role throughout the season.

As we progressed through the season, we continued to run better than we ever had as a team. The week before Region we ran in South Effingham at the Last Chance Honey Ridge 5k. I challenged my guys to run their normal race but start out faster than normal; just try it, if it fails, it does not matter and at Region they could start as they normally do. Well they started faster and several of the top five ran PR's or SB's thanks to this new strategy and collectively we had our top five average in the 17:00s for the first time in our six year history. 

Every year, the night before State we meet in the conference room and tell the guys how proud of them we are and provide a little motivation for the State race. 

This year my message was clear: all year they had done things no other Jeff Davis team had done;  if they truly wanted to be the best team we ever had, do something we have never done, finish third. In my heart I feel they could have done it; they were so excited yet calm, with the three seniors truly taking in the moment. Then right after the start, catastrophe occurs, a major pile up. Many of my runners received spike marks across their backs as they laid on the ground. When they finally reached me, (I am always waiting for them at the playground), they were so far behind and I thought, "they chose the last race of the year to run their worst race." 

They fought and climbed toward the front, finishing in a very tight pack, however further back than they had hoped. When I found out they had fallen, I felt so bad for them and told them to not hang their heads knowing everything they accomplished this season. Then finally two Carrollton students walked over to post the first results of the day and I was waiting for them at the big board. When I asked if I could see before they posted them they said no, but I told them I would hold the tape for them while they posted them to make the process easier and then I saw it, somehow they were able to make it on the podium for the second year in a row and for the third time in four years.

The 2A boys race