No matter how successful they are this year, the runners on Christian Heritage’s 2013 roster will be remembered for at least one thing.
“I’m really proud of the boys and girls who are out for this historic season,” said coach Rhonda Burdette. “They can take pride in being the first ones.”
Although it was considered exhibition, the Lions ran in the recent Early Bird Invitational at North Cobb Christian School.
“They all got a taste of what running competition is,” Burdette said. “Now they can work each week on having personal best times.”
During that preseason activity, Jonathan Lewallen edged fellow sophomore Kameron Hawkins, 21:09 to 21:13, in a battle to be the Lions’ top finisher. Sophomore Tyler Tipton finished ahead of his freshman brother, Tate, for third place. Others competing for the Lions include Eli Duncan, Ben Crawford and Chris Keyes, juniors; and Justin Volzer, a freshman.
Mollie Crawford, who provides senior leadership, led the Lady Lions in 25:28.
Three sophomores enter the season as quality prospects behind Crawford — Rachel Gleaton, Annsley Lowe and Mallory Sanford. Kacie Griggs, a senior, is also being counted on to provide points. Other candidates are Audrey Johnston and Janna Plemmons, juniors; and Sidney Davis, a freshman.
Burdette, 1983 Berry College graduate, said she has competed in marathons and triathlons since her school days at south Georgia’s Valdosta High. With a young roster — there are no senior boys and only two senior girls — she is optimistic about the future.
“I hope to translate my love for running to these high school runners,” she said. “The running means so much to me.”
Although Coahulla Creek is heading only into its third cross country season, both the Colts and Lady Colts already have enjoyed the fruits of state competition, with the boys going to Carrollton each of the past two years.
The Colts claimed a runner-up Region 5-3A finish last season, while Coahulla Creek’s girls advanced by taking third place.
“The biggest surprise was the first year, when the boys finished third in the region and qualified for state,” Colts coach Josh Deslattes said. “We rather expected it last year with the boys.”
Both squads figure to be in the hunt for a return to state.
“We feel confident about a good run in the region this year,” Deslattes said. “We lost several seniors but have some good people returning.”
There are 14 juniors among 24 boys for Coahulla Creek. Sadoth Fraire, the lone senior, has been setting the early pace.
“Sadoth can run in the low 18s,” Deslattes said. “He was injured early last year but came back strong.”
Missael Fraire and Junior Villareal, a pair of juniors, and freshman Walt Douglas have a strong battle going for the No. 2 spot. The fifth berth could come down to identical twins Gaspar and Oscar Andrews, who are part of that large junior class.
Other performers include Gerardo Calderon, Austin Cole, Andrew Fisher, Timothy Hooper, Cesar Lee, Preston Pangle, Ben Phillips, Dylan Renard, Ronny Vargas and Evan Wright, juniors; Nicholas Lara, Drew Satterfield, Deep Soni and Brannon Wilson, sophomores; and Brett Hollis, Bryce Jones, Ethan Langford and Bo Sheppard, freshmen.
Dee Goodwin has taken over as the Lady Colts’ coach, replacing Ben Williams, who now coaches in Cleveland, Tenn.
“Give us some time,” Goodwin said. “By the end of the year, we’ll be stronger than last year.”
Senior Evelyn Botello and freshman Morgan King have a close battle going as the top runner, with both focusing on 21 minutes. Then comes balance among sophomores Hayley Hight, Bethany Goodwin and Landon Kidwell and juniors Ationza Smith and Rachel Cherry.
Depth comes from Silvia Esteban, Gisel Maldonado, Julissa Romero, Kacky Sheppard and Elizabeth Trejo, juniors; and Erin Elrod and Kimberly Spivey, freshmen.