The 4A boys race was intense last year
When Carrollton Comes a Calling
Maybe it's just me, but it's that time of the cross country season - when Separation Slope and saving energy for the second loop at that place called Carrollton keeps popping into the brain - maybe even nudges you a bit as you sleep.
The Carrollton course, I have found over the years - is a comparison. "Was this as hard as Carrollton?" "How many seconds faster can I do Coach Wood than Carrollton?" "Is this like that state course we have to run each year?"
Call it what you wish - a reward, a punishment, an honor, a pain - or perhaps all of the above, though as I write this, many teams and runners are tapering while in the back of their mind wondering if they've done too much. Or not enough.
Many courses, after all, are forgiving, as you can go out fast in some and still survive, as painful as it may be. Our beloved state course, however, doesn't allow that luxury. Many coaches have wept watching their kids struggle to surmount that last hill before going down; the rest have prayed their youth did it right.
"Sometimes there's nothing more frustrating than waiting on your fifth runner at the state finish line," a coach said. "I've stood there and fretted for years - mainly because there is absolutely NOTHING I could do."
No, there isn't, but instead it's the time when you put the hopes on the backs - or better said on the feet - of our youth. It's the time when adrenaline is at full swing, but at the same time it must be controlled. Or else. The starting line is a moment of pride, yet for some - that pride quickly died when not running smart.
"The state course should be that way," another coach said. "After all, taking the top prize is supposed to be tough - if it were easy every team would stand on top of the podium and the dang thing would break."
Another thought, it's the day when the rankings are completely useless - something only for the media to write about, compare, and brag on. Other sports the rankings give you an easier opponent with your better ranking. This sport they mean absolutely nothing.
"I don't even read the rankings," one coach said. "And I don't mean that anything personal against the people who keep up with such things."
Regardless, in the wink of an eye, when summer running seemed just like yesterday, the leaves have now turned, Daylight Savings will happen, and the 90 degree races down south have suddenly turned to who knows what when we get to I-20 west.
And not to forget, it is an honor in getting there, in toeing that line in one of the most underrated sports as far as toughness goes, the sport where the glitter is great but often you go through a bloody type of hell to get there.
But, in closing, good luck to all. And if my team and I are fortunate enough to get there again, I'll be standing at that finish line. Hoping. Pleading. Praying. Frustrated. Wanting to call a time out that doesn't exist.
Still, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else on that day, at that time, standing at a finish line at some place called Carrollton, Georgia.
Bring it on.
Holder of lots of jobs
Author, coach, nice guy-
2019 GHSA Girls' XC State Champions
2022 GHSA Boys' track State Champions