Path to the Podium: 2021 Armuchee Boys Cross Country

Armuchee boys reached the top of the podium this year. Photo by Scott Pierce

Path to the Podium: Armuchee 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 Scott Pierce of Armuchee, to talk about his boy's Class A Public State Championship.  

XC 2020

The seniors that laid the foundation for this season's success were the 4 guys that graduated in 2020.  They had three State runner-up finishes in 4 years and had taught the young guys behind them the value of hard work. When the girls won the first XC championship in the school's history last year, it made the returning guys see it as something within their reach. We also had a few 8th graders that practiced with us last year enough to figure out how important the summer can be and came in as freshmen ready to contribute.

Winter 2020

Matthew Campbell, Landon England and Trace Harris were ready to win a championship and worked hard during the winter to improve their base and of course ran track in the spring. All 3 encouraged the younger guys to come with them.  Being a small school other programs like ours will tell you that you have to share athletes.  So most of our team members are multi-sport athletes.  Matthew Campbell, Julian Alvarez played soccer. Ethan Ayers is a very good wrestler (who I expect great things from next year) and Landon England was also a swimmer. 

We had our share of injuries and illnesses this year.  Matthew Campbell and Sam Lindley were beaten down mid and late season with bad colds, Landon started the year with Mono, and Ben Owens had major knee surgery In January and wasn't allowed to train until August.

Track 2021

Trace Harris was new to the program this year. He obviously had a big impact when he was individual champion and freshmen Ben Owens and Sam Lindley surprised us with PR's well under 18 this year. We had pretty good depth.  I would say our top 9 runners could all contribute if asked to do so.  One runner that really stepped-up was Senior Jesse Hernandez.  In the state race a couple of the regular top 5 guys were struggling. Jesse ran close to his PR on the Carrollton course to get in our #5 spot and score. Probably the race of the day for us when he was needed.

Summer 2021

Summers are always hard for small schools.  We have to work around all the other sport commitments and vacations.  We were scattered about but everyone seemed to know the importance of the summer and held each other accountable to be working when we weren't together. The motto this summer seemed to be from Matthew Campbell about and to his teammates, "If it isn't on Strava it didn't happen".

Season 2021

I had a pretty good idea of what to expect out of the older guys, but 3 of the freshmen really surprised me.  Sam and Julian trained with us some as 8th graders so I had seen potential in them but was surprised by Sam running sub 18 mid season. Ben Owens had been a very good middle school runner, but after the knee surgery and 6 months without any kind of running I was hoping to get him around 19 minutes. His past experience with running fast let his mind take over his body and we had to actually hold him back so he could fully heal. He still ran in the mid 17's.

Our goals never changed this year.  What made this team different was their ability to hold each other accountable for the summer and in season efforts.  A lot of leadership from Juniors Matthew Campbell and Trace Harris showed them what a hard workout looked like and what it could do for you. Landon England also had a calming and let's get the work done attitude that set a good example to the young runners. I think the changing moment, when the light really came on for the guys last year was at the XC banquet in the spring.  Watching the girls get their rings and knowing how close they had come in the past really lit a fire in them. 

Video of the 1A Public boys race that Armuchee won.