Path to the Podium: 2021 Chestatee Boys Cross Country

Chestatee on the podium. Photo by Jennifer Moore.

Path to the Podium: Chestatee 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 are coaches Jennifer Moore and Wes Wessley from Chestatee to talk about their boys winning the 4A state Championship.

The journey to a double state win for CHS boys started in 2019 when our fifth runner helped the team advance to state with a fourth place finish against a duo of private schools.

In the summer of 2020 COVID-19 presented many challenges, particularly with our boys continuing to build mileage base. School was not in person at this time and the team could not meet together for runs. Luke Gaddis, the standout senior, worked hard to push his base to high numbers, and encouraged the rest of the team to do the same, despite facing obstacles and challenges caused by COVID. 

As the 2020 season started and team was facing all that COVID-19 was throwing our way that school year, such as individual quarantines, illnesses, and school closures, the boy's commitment to the program became apparent. Our first meet against some larger schools showed promise and boys were not deterred. With Gaddis never finishing worse then second place, the confidence was there with our team.

As state approached the boys had not yet competed against a strong team like Marist, but the boys felt like they had an opportunity to take home the gold and were confident in each other and the work they had put in throughout the season. It was such an accomplishment taking home the gold that year, and coming home with Chestatee's first state championship winning title in athletics.

 With the introduction of the 4x800 during track season, our small but committed boys team felt motivated to continue training on their own through the holidays to stay fit for the upcoming track season of 2021.

As more intense speed work was introduced in training that season the team saw breakthrough from Luke Gaddis and junior Gavin Grater in 1600m and 3200m races. The remainder of the team was focusing on making a good showing in the distance relays. Our distance boys runners collected a pile of points, including a third place in the 4x800. Losing two seniors after track season did not seem to to deter the team from looking ahead to another XC state win.

As summer training started, senior twins Garrett and Gavin Grater took on the leadership roles. The boys already had their mind on one goal: taking home another state championship. After losing two strong seniors, the entire team trained hard to fill in the gaps. The boys cruised through an undefeated regular season, while keeping an eye on Marist and Druid Hills, two teams also making a strong statement in their seasons.

With state approaching, the intensity and anxious feelings about the meet increased. It became apparent that it would come down, as it often does, to the fifth man. And at the state meet it played out just that way, as sophomore Noah Peters ran a terrific second half, bringing the win for the team. The team put four runners in the top ten, and brought home yet another winning title - back-to-back state champions!

Interview with Chestatee Boys