Path to the Podium: Furlow Charter 3rd in class 1A-d2

Path to the Podium-Furlow Charter Girls by Andy Christie

What exactly did it take for a team to arrive at the moment where they are standing on the podium, clutching their prized trophy? In this article, Furlow Charter coach Brittney Skiles Coleman details the journey her girls took on the way to placing 3rd in Class A Division 2.

XC 2022

Any seniors that set a good example or laid the foundation?
Jacklyn Chen was a great role model for the team.  She had great team camaraderie and sportsmanship. Really encouraged not only her teammates, but other teams as well.  She was able to move up a grade last year, so she graduated a year early. The team really respected her. 

Any good or bad results that motivated the team? 
Yes, we had a shot at making podium last year, but we had some unfortunate luck going into states. Several girls got sick, but they toughed it out and we finished in 5th, which was still the highest the program has ever finished at states. This really motivated the team to work hard during the offseason. Overall, we had a great season last year.  The team was very consistent. We had several freshmen and every race was a learning experience. 

Winter 2022

Anyone that stepped up their training with XC already in mind? 
Yes, I had several girls continue their training to get ready for track.  They took some time off and started building back up a base going into track season.

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?
I wouldn't say we had any setbacks.  I am a very positive person, so I turn any negative situation into a positive.  I don't like hearing anything negative on the team.  The athletes have great attitudes and always see the bright side of things.  When things don't go the way you want them to go, you reflect, think about what changes can be made, and move on and put it into action. 

Track 2023

Did anyone have a breakout season, or were there new additions that changed the outlook of XC?
Yes, I had several girls run track. At this time, it was my second year at Furlow and I was really trying to build up the track program to keep the girls running going into cross country season and to also gain a little more experience.  I use track as a way of trying to get new athletes to come out and run, especially in middle school. I have really put a lot of time into developing the middle school XC & track program. Students aren't as afraid to try out track as they are cross country. Once they join track, I can usually talk them into running cross country.  This is how I got several of the freshman girls to join cross country. Most of the girls on the XC team joined the track team.  We had the biggest track team in school history last year and I expect bigger numbers in the 2024 season. 
I had several girls barely miss out on making the podium in the 1600m, finishing 9th & 10th. Elizabeth Arizmendi finished in 6th in the 3200m and Maria Kilheffer placed 9th. The girls 4X800m team placed 4th and set the school record, so that was a very exciting moment for the team! This built up momentum and confidence going into the fall cross country season. 

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?
One of the top girls had a minor setback, but we were able to get her back to 100% before summer training started.

Summer 2023

Any new additions that changed the outlook for XC? 
We added a freshman to our roster, Ashley Narvaez, and she really stepped it up and helped out the team tremendously. 

What were the early goals for the season? 
The ultimate goal was to place at states. Our early goals were to work hard and tough out the heat.  Another goal was to close the gap on some of the bigger schools that have beaten us in the past in South GA, which we did.  We beat quite a few schools that beat us in 2022.  I always remind my team of the progress that we are making after each hard workout and race. I like to show them where we were a year ago.  That always gets them excited! Those reminders really help during a long season and especially during the hot months.  

How did summer training go for the team? 
Summer training went great! They were driven and committed to each other. We have great camaraderie on the team and they hold each other accountable. 

Season 2023

Did anyone have a breakout season that changed the outlook for the team?  
Maria Kilheffer (SR) had her best season yet and placed 8th.  She struggled her junior season, but was able to get to 100% and finished out her senior season strong. She is the team captain and has done a great job setting the foundation for the young athletes that will be coming up. 
Ashley Narvaez had a great season as well! She was new to the 5k, so the whole season was a learning experience, but she was very coachable and did everything that I asked of her. She started off the season running close to 32 minutes and got her time down to 26:43 (PR) at the state meet, which helped our team out tremendously! 

How did early results compare to the team goals?
Our goal was to make podium, but in order to make that happen you have to take it one step at a time, one day at a time. It is easy to get caught up on the big picture and lose focus on the short term goals.  We competed in the Lee County Invitational, which is the biggest meet in South GA, and the girls placed 5th out of 21 teams.  That was very encouraging and showed the girls all of their hard work over the summer was paying off.  This was the best performance the team has ever had at a big meet. The girls were 100% committed to working hard and staying on the path. You don't train based off of motivation, but the drive and determination helps you to reach your ultimate goals. 

Did the team revise any goals? 
Yes, we had to tighten up our team spread. I gave each girl a goal to focus on and told them to trust the process. In time, it worked.  

Any setbacks/challenges that had to be overcome?
I had several girls that weren't allowed to do any sort of training for 10 days in September, so that was a minor setback.  They bounced back fast and didn't miss any more days of training or racing. 

In hindsight, what are the key moments of the season that led to the State result? 
The positive atmosphere, team camaraderie, commitment, & athletes running for each other.  We have a very strong bond here at Furlow.  Athletes lift each other up and are very encouraging. It is a long season and it was a blessing to have everyone in good health.  The girls finished in the top 3 at several meets throughout the season and even won a couple of meets.  This really built up their confidence and allowed them to believe in themselves.  We even beat Wilcox (#2 team) twice going into the state meet.  They placed at states last year and this really got the team excited and helped to lead to the podium.  The girls made school history by being the first team to ever place at a State Championship! This group has laid the foundation for future success!