Remembering Coach Bill Woods, Franklin County

Coach Bill Woods, Franklin County and his wife Heather. All photos courtesy of Heather Woods and Brett Steele

"On September 24th 2021, Franklin County lost a running icon and mentor to many. Bill 'Woody' Woods never met a stranger, and I believe that will help to carry on his influence in the running world here in our state! Bill not only coached cross country and track but also helped where he knew he could in other sports. Bill helped runners from different parts of the state. I have never met a person who personified running like Bill! He knew more things about running than I will be able to learn in a lifetime. He truly loved this sport, but he loved his runners more. Each one was an extension of his family! He was a family man, coach, friend, brother, Christian, and mentor. His legacy will live on here in Franklin and in many runners across the state. That day in September will not be forgotten and neither will he."

- Coach Brett Steele, Franklin County High School Head XC Coach

Bill Woods attended Stone Mountain High School where he did multiple sports, such as football, cross country, and track. He later went on to run for Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia, GA,  where he competed in and winning many races, such as the "Onion Run," a long-standing annual race held in Vidalia. After graduation, Bill went into the military and continued his running career there. He was in the Marine Corps for seven years. He was a businessman and coached at Franklin County High School. He passed away in September last year. Coach Woods is survived by his wife Heather and his four children: Gracie, Robbie, Cole, and Lela. Gracie, Robbie, and Cole are all accomplished runners, and Coach Woods's legacy lives on in each of them.Gracie graduated Franklin County High School in 2021 and currently attends Erskine College in South Carolina where she competes for the cross country and track teams. As a freshman, she posted a PR of 18:47 in the 5K at the Royals XC Challenge and a 6K PR of 23:36 at the Converse Kick-Off. In October 2021, she was named "Women's Cross Country Freshman of the Month" in the Conference Carolinas, a Division II conference.

During her senior year of high school, Gracie ran a 5:34.36 in the 1600 placing tenth and a 12:02.89 in the 3200 placing eleventh at the 2021 GHSA AAA State Championships. During her senior cross country season, she ran a 21:21 at region placing fourth and carrying her team to a fourth place overall finish - securing them a position at the GHSA State Cross Country Championships. At state that year, she ran 22:27 and helped her team to a fourteenth place finish out of the best schools in Class AAA.

Coach Woods and his daughter Gracie at a high school indoor meet held at Riverside Military College in Gainesville, GA.

Coach Woods and daughter Gracie at a college meet.

Coach Woods's son Robbie is a sophomore at Franklin County High School and participates in both cross country and track. In the 2021 cross country season, Robbie posted a season best of 18:12 at the GHSA Region 8-AAA Championships, giving him an eighth place finish overall. He posted a 5K PR of 18:09 at the stacked 2020 Jefferson Invitational in Jefferson, GA. On the track side, Robbie has a PR of 4:44.43 in the 1600 - ran at North Oconee's Titans GAP/PGAP Invitational in 2021. He has a PR of 10:12.56 in the 3200. Robbie went on to compete at the 2021 GHSA State Championships in track as a freshman, placing sixth overall in the 1600 and thirteenth overall in the 3200.

Coach Woods's son Cole attends Franklin County Middle School and competes in both cross country and track. During the 2021 track season, Cole posted a PR of 2:26.51 in the 800 at his middle school region meet held at Hart County. He has a PR of 5:10.83 in the 1600, and he ran a 5:14.86 at the Georgia Middle School State Championships held at Parkview High School. He also ran the 3200 at the state middle school meet, posting an impressive 10:48.70 and tenth place finish. In the 2021 cross country season, Cole placed ninth overall at the Georgia Middle School State Championships with a two-mile time of 12:34 held in Cochran, GA. 

Coach Woods had carved out a running course in Franklin County and started the "Pridelands Invitational" at the school. He had a desire to host a North Georgia middle school championship meet, and Coach Tim Cummings of Athens Christian would also like to see that happen. Starting this fall, the 1st Annual "Bill Woods" North GA Middle School Championships will be hosted at Athens Christian School in Athens, GA. The meet information can be found here:

Coach Woods with his sons Robbie and Cole

Bill and his youngest daughter Lela.