Path To The Podium: Oconee County Boys Win Class 3A

Interview with Oconee County Boys after they won the 3A state title

Path to the Podium: Oconee Boys

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 Coaches Kendra Houghton, Jake Forrester, and Jim Norton what it took for the Oconee boys to win the Class 3A State Championship

XC 2021

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

The past few seasons we've had some strong leaders, some of whom became captains at UGA (Michael Hans, Wesley John). We've also had some years where some seniors were more in it for themselves than the team. We saw that leadership role change dramatically with Andrew Knapp. Andrew took it upon himself to really gather the guys together really from day one (end of track/ beginning of summer). He made some major gains just from his Junior year that gave him confidence and made it a point to be the best leader he could be.

Any results that gave motivation (good or bad) 

Reclassification definitely helped with the motivation. Having raced against Westminster, Marist, and St Pius over the past few years, it always felt like we just couldn't break through. We were one runner away or even when we thought we had a chance, we would have uneven performances at State. Once we saw the new competition, I think we got even hungrier. Of course, State 2021 and the "controversial" disqualification definitely fueled our fire as well.

Winter 2021

Anyone that stepped up their training with XC already in mind: 

YES!  Many.  Most of our boys did off-season-appropriate training together and worked on individual/team goals, injury prevention, strength, speed/agility, mileage build-up, and mental health.  Aaron Brodrick (8th grader at that time) also trained very well during the winter, with a set plan, and often ran with his future teammates in the off season.

Mindset of the non-seniors: 

The boys decided together that they wanted to chase the state title.  They knew training would be much more effective if done together and with a set plan in mind.  They positively pressured each other.  They not only focused on training hard & smart, but also on continuing to fall in love with running and appropriately down-cycle between cross country and track seasons.  Those boys who could not train with the group did so on their own and followed a well thought-out plan.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome? 

With several boys not able to drive and living far out in the county with working parents, some could not join in with others to train.  Also, some of our kids live out in the country, far from parks, trails, etc. so they have to get creative with off-season training.

Track 2022

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

Andrew Knapp, Champ Blose, Steven Durocher, Tyler Brantley, and Samuel Rue each qualified for state in the 4x800m, which was each of their first appearances at track state.  Although Steven Durocher, Tyler Brantley, and Samuel Rue were not in the top 7 who raced at 2022 XC state, they were significant contributors in training throughout the year, pushing all team members in training & races, and battling for spots. Steven Durocher who had previously just competed in the 400m, asked for a shot in the 800m and ended up running the fourth fastest 800m on our team, and the fastest split in our state 4x800m team.  Andrew Knapp began surfacing as more of a contributor toward the 2022 XC season by breaking 5:00 in the mile three times in the final month of the track season.  Patterson Graham qualified for the state yet again in the 3200m as a sophomore, after qualifying as a freshman as well.

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

Cooper Timberman excelled tremendously in the 800m, running a 1:55 at state and breaking Wesley John's school record, and also in the 1600m, running a 4:25 at state. Aaron Brodrick excelled at the middle school state and national level in the 3200m and 1600m!

Summer 2022

Any new additions that changed the outlook for XC 

We had a strong freshman class come up and join us this year, led by Aaron Brodrick. This group of runners definitely increased the level of competition at practice with athletes always competing for spots. 

Early goals for the season 

With the reclassification this year, we knew that a state championship was our goal. We had won a couple of region championships in a row, which we wanted to repeat but the state championship was always the end-goal for the season. 

How the team handled summer training 

Overall the team bought in this summer and handled it very well. We made some changes this year to our summer program, incorporating two days a week in the gym to increase strength and promote a higher resilience to injury. The boys dedicated the time and consistently showed up to put in work.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome? 

Not really. A few nagging pains here or there but nothing major to knock anyone off track.

Season 2022

Anyone that had a breakout season that changed the outlook 

Overall the entire varsity boys squad had a great year. Aaron Brodrick had arguably the most successful freshman season this year. He definitely made a difference, but even without his state finish, our boys still come out on top. Cooper Timberman getting in the 15's, up with Aaron definitely elevated the team to another level. 

How early results compared to any goals 

From our first race of the season at Apalachee, we could tell that we were on pace for where we needed to be. We came out the gate strong, posting times that I wouldn't have expected to see until much later in the season. 

Any revisions of goals? 

There is always a bit of revision throughout the season. Whether someone experienced an injury or another type of setback to changes in performance (both ahead of and behind where we think they should be), there is a constant revision of goals week to week. But overall, we knew our goal was the state championship. We may have adjusted what we focused on week to week, but it was all in the pursuit of the title. 

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome? 

Nothing too major. A couple of minor injuries put some our runners back a week or two throughout the season, but we knew they would be back when we needed them. 

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

To pick one, the Warpath Invitational this year was very telling as to what our team was capable of. Down one of our top runners, our boys ran a very fast race, showing exactly what they were capable of. From Brodrick going sub 16, breaking the school record, Graham going sub 17 for the first time, to our number 4-6 runners packing up and going sub 18 for the first time, it was clear the boys had the championship mentality. They were putting their heart and soul into the season.