Path To The Podium: Walton Girls Place 4th In Class 7A

Watch the Walton Girls place 4th in the 7A Race at State

Path to the Podium: Walton Girls

By Andy Christie

Everyone sees the smiling faces when a team is up on the podium at State, but not everyone sees what it took to get there. In this article, we find out from Coach Bill Stewart what it took for the Walton girls to place 4th in Class 7A.  

XC 2021

Any seniors that set a good example or laid the foundation?

 In 2021, we were very young and missing some of that leadership that Walton had had so often in the past, where it seems we always had a runner who would be top 10 at state. So really the long process to develop good leadership habits had to come from our underclassmen.

Any results that gave motivation (good or bad) 

The team finished 12th at state, which was not the result they wanted and that provided as much motivation as anything.

Winter 2021/22

Anyone that stepped up their training with XC already in mind

We were very lucky to have Ella Bailey move in to Walton the previous track season. She brought with her a very strong work ethic, and though she did not have the XC season she wanted to in '21, instead of giving in, she redoubled her efforts to have a good track season. 

Mindset of the non-seniors

Ella's work ethic started to rub off on the strong Frosh/Soph crew we had but was still at this point baby steps. 

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome

Not really a setback, but mostly the hardest part was believing that we were a good team again and should be competitive with the best in the state.  That and trying to get our numbers back up again (the pandemic really reduced our team size) 

Track 2022

Anyone that had a breakout season, or new additions, that changed the outlook of XC

We had a strong set of results from many of those who would be key contributors in '22. Daniella started putting up times that showed she could compete on the state level running 11:19 and 5:09. We also started to develop some depth (for example Emma Jow went from a 6:00/13:00 runner to 12:12 and 5:43) 

Anyone that was already expected to contribute, but still had a good season

Ella Bailey had very solid track season (5:19/11:32) and despite being some what overlooked due to our region, was very consistent in her times and training

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome

Mostly it was keeping the team focused on being the best they could be - we were in a very competitive region with Marietta, Harrison, and Hillgrove - so getting out of region to go to sectionals was a tall task. Only Daniella was able to do it in the 1600. We also got several new girls interested in distance (that were not on XC) and that helped bolster both our numbers and competitiveness.

Summer 2022

Any new additions that changed the outlook for XC: We knew we were getting 2 youth runners (Nikki Delgado and Mallory Old) that had performed very well in youth running and had a good sized crew sign up for XC which is always a good sign.  Perhaps just as important we picked up another community coach, Beth Old (Mallory's mother) who had helped in track, and brought in the kind of expertise that only a former Georgia Tech All-American and Olympic Trials qualifier can bring!

Early goals for the season: Podium always seemed the aspirational goal as we knew we had a good mix of returning & new runners but at this point it was still mostly aspirational. 

How the team handled summer training

The girls were very consistent and ran significantly more in the summer than the team had the year before. We were still mostly young so, besides Ella, for most the mileage range was in that 250-300 miles for the 12 week summer period. We know next year if we want to move up on the podium it will have to be more. Key though was everyone ran a decent amount and were consistent about it.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome

A couple, our top freshmen runner from '21 Ava Ryan (top 40 state xc and 2:22) transferred to Blessed Trinity. So we had a little less depth than we might have thought (so we brought back 4/7 vs 5/7 from '21). Then Mallory Old had a stress fracture during the summer, so that delayed her season and limited her base work.  And we also had to deal with iron issues with a few of our runners that limited summer training.

Season 2022

Anyone that had a breakout season that changed the outlook

We certainly knew Nikki Delgado was going to be good based on her youth results but it took her a few races to reach her potential so her coming along at the end of the season really helped. Emma Jow continued to improve significantly and was key in helping to replace Ava. And we also had several new runners really contribute (Maddie Teilhet, Trisha Mehrotra, and Avery Wheeler) to our depth.

How early results compared to any goals

Our early races proved we had all the pieces but getting them all to come together took a bit more time. 

Any revisions of goals

We still felt being on the podium was a good goal and were consistently focused on that. I think mostly it just went from more of an abstract concept (and nice to say) to more of a concrete expectation.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome

Of course, like seemingly every team this season we went through several periods of sickness (close to 20% of our team didn't even run the region meet due to sickness) and a few injuries. But we were pretty lucky to get most of injuries (falling down seemed to be an issue) out of the way early in the season (unlike our boys - but that is another story). 

in hindsight, key moments of the season that led to the State result:  

First key moment was Mallory Old's race at Cobb County Championship where she ran 19:29 which was only her 2nd race. From that we knew we had 5 runners that had the potential to be very competitive with the top 40 or so at state.  The 2nd was at region where Nikki and Emma ran in the mid 19's to show that they were not only both ready to run well at state but even if we had some off days (which usually occurs at Carrollton) as long as we stayed competitive it would take a great race from other teams to force us out of the top 4.