For the past four years, Isaac Pacheco has been one of the top local runners.
He has decided to keep the “local” label.
Pacheco has signed a letter of intent and scholarship with Dalton State College and is the first recruit for the institution’s cross country program. He is currently a North Murray High School senior who ran cross country for four years and is in the midst of his fourth year on the Mountaineers’ track and field squad.
“When I heard Dalton State would have cross country, I took interest,” Pacheco said. “What caught my attention most was it’s local. I met (Dalton State athletic director Derek Waugh) and both coaches. Because they’re new, the morale is real high. ... I want me and my team to set high standards for local runners.”
He received other offers from Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., and Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs. He said he’ll reconsider his options after two years.
“Dalton came up, and for me it’s a better option because I’d rather stay close to home,” he said. “I want to be a college runner and work my way up to being a university athlete.”
Pacheco was named The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year the past two years. In addition to enjoying success in high school cross country and track — he has three medals over the past two seasons at the Georgia High School Association’s state track and field meets — he has been successful racing against older athletes in area road races.
Last year he won both the Silver Bell Sprint 5K in Dalton and the Carpet Capital 10-Miler in Varnell. He second in last year’s Dalton Red Carpet Half Marathon and third in the Baltimore Half Marathon.
One of his coaches will be someone who watched him the past four years as an opposing high school coach.
Margie Bruner, who currently is an assistant cross country and track and field coach at Dalton High School, was hired in December as Dalton State’s men’s and women’s cross country coach, a part-time volunteer position. She said the plan is for her and Andy Meyer to serve as co-coaches.
“I’ve watched him grow up,” Bruner said. “Just from road races and track meets at Dalton. He’s a great kid and has such a strong work ethic.”
The program has more slots to fill for the boys and a whole team open for the girls before the season begins next fall. Bruner said seven runners will compete in meets, with the top five finishers counting toward the team’s score. Bruner hopes for “10 or 11” on each roster, and additional local talent could join Pacheco.
“We really feel like we’re sitting on so much talent in this area,” Bruner said. “So we’re talking to more local kids and we hope with Isaac signing it will kind of get the ball going.”