Coahulla Creek High School junior Josh Foxx looks back on the scrawny little kid he was as a freshman and can’t help but laugh. As his first year at the school in Varnell came to a close, he had spent the spring on the track team as a high jumper. He admits he didn’t put in all of the work he should have and wasn’t really committed to the sport. He was good, but he knew he wasn’t at an elite level, and he didn’t even compete at the region track meet that spring.
But coach Eric Bishop, an accomplished college high-jumper himself, saw something in that kid.
That was when the change came. The commitment came and the sacrifices were made. And success followed, but it was a long road from that unfocused freshman to what Foxx is now — state champion.
“I never would have seen myself in this type of situation two years ago,” Foxx said. “It is one of those situations that you just don’t imagine yourself in. But I have put in the work, and it has paid off greatly. I just thought I was a kid jumping and just doing it for fun. But then coach Bishop came along, and it became a lifestyle. You have two options — you become committed or you don’t do it at all.”
Foxx captured Coahulla Creek’s first Georgia High School Association athletics state title of any sort since the school opened in 2011, winning the Class 3A state title in the high jump with a leap of 6-foot, 6-inches. For his efforts, Foxx has been selected as The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Spring Male Athlete of the Year. The rest of the team is made up of athletes from the area’s tennis, golf and track and field athletes. The team is chosen by The Daily Citizen sports staff with input from area coaches. The spring girls team will be published on June 15.
“His mindset, I guarantee you it changed totally from where he was as a freshman,” said Bishop, who won a pair of NCAA championships during his four years at North Carolina. “Coaches ask this so often of their athletes — and they refuse to do it for whatever reason — but it was just the buy-in he made to what his coaches were telling him to do.”
The change started to show during his sophomore year, showing a glimmer of the shine that was to come. Foxx advanced out of Region 5-3A in the shadow of North Murray’s Brady Swill-ing — another competitor who had worked closely with Bishop when he was employed at the Chatsworth school. Swilling went on to finish second at state with a jump of 6-4. Foxx made it to state and was eighth overall with a best of 5-10.
After that, it was as if Foxx had found his high jump trampoline.
Last summer, he competed at the American Athletic Union’s Junior Olympics in the 16-under division. He finished second in the nation with a leap 6 inches higher than what he turned in at state.
“It began with a lot of mechanics and just getting to know where you needed to be, and coach Bishop helped out a lot with that,” Foxx said. “After that, it is working on strength after you get your technique down. If you are strong but you can’t jump, then it doesn’t really matter. If you can jump but you aren’t strong, you aren’t going to jump very high. You have to put it all together at once. That was what I finally started doing last summer.”
Bishop saw the change even before the duo made the trip back to Whitfield County from the GHSA state track meet in Jefferson last May.
“He stopped with excuses,” Bishop said. “He wrote out his goals for him, and we talked about the steps he needed to do to get here. I know that he really, really wants to be successful in everything that he wants to do. If he didn’t win state, that wasn’t even the end goal. The end goal is you graduate from college with no debt and have a leg up on the rest of the students. That sounded pretty good to him and that might have been some of it too with him seeing a bigger picture.”
Coming into this year’s high school track season, the key was going to be whether or not Foxx could continue to put together his best performances on the biggest stages. He answered the question early on by winning the Ronnie McClurg Rotary Invitational at Dalton High School with a personal best jump of 6-8.
“Mostly it is about putting in a lot of hard work,” Foxx said. “What motivates me is going out there and winning and putting everything that I have into it. It is all on my shoulders and I don’t have to worry about or depend on anyone else. If I win or lose, it is all on my shoulders. That is one thing that I like about track is that it is all the result of what I do. It motivates me to know that I do it on my own and winning or losing all of the credit or all of the blame is on me.”
The regular season for Foxx was rarely a challenge. He would pass heights throughout a meet, go out and jump one of two times and walk away as the winner. Early on, official track meets for the Colts became just part of a regular day’s workout. After his events were finished for the meet, he would spend the rest of his time running up the stairs of stadium or finding a corner of the field to do a personal workout program.
“It has been a long, hard road from last year,” Foxx said. “I have come out a lot of times on this track by myself whenever coach Bishop gave me a workout to do. I have had to push myself. He knows that if you don’t put forth the effort, then it is not going to do you any good. I have a lot of personal motivation. I have had a lot of things going on throughout my life, and it is just pushing me to want to do greater things.”
Now, Foxx is focused on a summer competition schedule which includes nationals again, but he will move up in age to the 18-under level and will face a more elite pool of talent. Then it is returning to defend his state title and find that end goal of Bishop’s — a college scholarship.
“I am not sure what to expect to be honest,” said Foxx, who says several colleges have been in contact with him already. “I am moving up in age class, and I could be going up against college athletes in the 18-year-old division. It is going to be totally different, and I really don’t know what to expect. I just have to keep working.”
Here’s a look at the rest of this spring’s outstanding performers in boys golf, tennis and track and field:
• Allen Behr, Dalton: Only a sophomore, Behr’s season tailed off a bit at the end — he was fighting strep throat at the Region 7-4A tournament and wound up not counting toward the Catamounts’ team total — although he did have counting rounds at both the Class 4A sectional and state tournaments. However, he led the way for Dalton much of the season and was the team’s No. 1 golfer in every tournament but one during the regular season and averaged an 18-hole score of 78.75 for the year. His best round was a 3-under-par 69 that helped him earn all-tournament honors at the Indian Invitational in Vidalia. This is his first all-area selection.
• Blake Carver, Christian Heritage: A four-year varsity starter for the Lions, Carver finished 10th at the Area 4-A tournament and was one stroke shy of earning a place in the Class A sectional as the region’s lowest-scoring golfer not on a team qualifying for the sectional or state tournament. He was chosen the Lions MVP this season and selected to represent the North team in the Georgia High School Golf Coaches Association’s Senior All-Star tournament. This is his first all-area selection after earning honorable mention as a freshman and sophomore.
• Ethan Hayes, Northwest Whitfield: Although the Bruins didn’t have the team success they would have liked this year, Hayes stood out as an individual and kept his season going all the way to the end, advancing through the postseason as an individual. With a scoring average of 79 for the year, he earned all-tournament honors at both the Fields Ferry Invitational and the Region 7-4A tournament, where he shot a 2-over-par 74 and lost a three-way playoff for medalist honors. He shot a 78 at the Class 4A sectional to advance to state, where his 78 was good for a top-20 finish. This is his first all-area selection after earning honorable mention a year ago.
• Landon Hicks, Dalton: Hicks is another sophomore whose potential shown in 2014 makes the Catamounts’ future seem promising. A contributor all year long, he saved his best golf for the postseason. He had the team’s low round in both the Region 7-4A tournament at Nob North, shooting a 78, and the Class 4A state tournament at Westlake Country Club in Martinez, shooting a 79. He helped the Cats — who finished first at the Class 4A sectional to advance to state — finish third and ninth at those tournaments. This is his first all-area selection.
• Honorable mention: Christian Heritage — Kyle Stanley (Jr.); Dalton — Jacob Brown (Sr.), Davis Kirk (Fr.).
• Will Alderman, Dalton: A very tough schedule didn’t keep the Cats from putting together a winning record — they went 16-6 and advanced to state — and it didn’t keep Alderman from being successful, either. Playing No. 1 doubles most of the time, he compiled a 16-6 record and helped the Cats stand out among area programs. This is his first all-area selection after earning honorable mention the past two seasons.
• Shazman Ali, Dalton: The senior’s 15-5 record is impressive by itself, but several of Ali’s victories were crucial matches that made the difference for the Cats on the team scoreboard. Chief among those was his straight sets victory against LaGrange in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament. The Cats fell in the second round to Marist — which went on to win its 13th state title — but Ali helped make sure this year’s team joined the group of Dalton teams whose accolades include a state tournament win. This is his first all-area selection after earning honorable mention last year.
• Cody Bourff and Blake Frankenberger, Northwest: The senior duo worked well together, something their 11-4 record makes clear. Their success was instrumental to a strong year on the court for the Bruins, who finished third in Sub-region 7B-4A and fourth in the Region 7-4A tournament as they qualified for state for the first time since 2010. Northwest fell in the opening round of the 4A tournament to Region 5 champion Carrollton, but coach Ryan Richards is hopeful the solid year is a sign of better things to come for the program. This is the first all-area selection for both.
• Alex Jarjoura, Coahulla Creek: The Colts enjoyed a breakthrough season, claiming the Region 5-3A title and winning a state tournament match for the first time as they finished 20-1, and the 6-foot-3 senior was a big reason why they were successful. He was undefeated until falling during the second round of state, when Coahulla Creek’s season was ended by eventual state champion St. Pius X. In his 20 victories, Jarjoura, an aggressive player at the net and exciting shot-maker, was pushed to a third set just twice. This is his first all-area selection.
• Jacob Johnson, Dalton: A junior who filled the No. 1 singles slot in the final season for coach David Hilley — who called this year’s team his best in his 12 seasons leading the program — Johnson went 15-6, with all of his losses coming to teams among the best in their classification and state. Dalton dominated to win the Sub-region 7B-4A title, then finished second in the Region 7-4A tournament to eventual state runner-up River Ridge, and Johnson led the way as the Cats put together yet another successful season. This is his first all-area selection after earning honorable mention each of the past two seasons.
• Honorable mention: Christian Heritage — Phillip McClure (Jr.), Evan Townsend (Jr.); Coahulla Creek — Chase Lynch (Jr.), Jake Mathis (Sr.); Dalton — Nathan Bryant (Sr.), Thomas DeLay (Sr.); North Murray — Hunter Kvistad (Sr.); Northwest — Troy Poe (Sr.).
Track and field
• Corey Barnes, Southeast Whitfield: The junior began the season as a competitor in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, but he made a successful shift into the 400 for the benefit of the Raiders — and himself. He set a school record in the event this year with his best time of 51.20 and was first at the Region 7-4A meet with a time of 51.44 to secure a place in the Class 4A “A” sectional. There, he came up short of advancing to state, but he had several strong performances during the regular season, finishing first at the Gordon Lee Invitational, second at the Northwest/Southeast Invitational and fourth at the Dalton Rotary Ronnie McClurg Invitational. This is his first all-area selection.
• Sadoth Fraire, Coahulla Creek: The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year last fall, the senior also had a successful “final run” on the track this spring. He set school records in both the 4x400 relay and the 3,200, and in the latter event he claimed the Region 5-3A title with a time of 10:42.77. He went on to place seventh in the 3,200 with a time of 10:38.98 at the Class 3A “A” sectional and clocked a time of 10:19.02 at state. This is his first all-area selection.
• Hayden Gross, Dalton: A participant in both discus and shot put, the junior excelled most in the latter event. He finished first at the Northwest/Southeast Invitational, where he was the Most Outstanding for field events; other strong regular-season finishes came at Gordon Central’s Warrior Invitational, where he was second, and the Cats’ Dalton Rotary Ronnie McClurg Invitational, where he was third in a very strong field. His best shot put of the postseason came at the Region 7-4A meet, where he was third with a distance of 49 feet, 8 1/4 inches. He was sixth at the Class 4A “A” sectional (47-9) and 10th at the state meet (48-7 1/4). This is his first all-area selection.
• Tim Hooper, Coahulla Creek: A junior who transferred last summer from Cherokee County’s River Ridge, Hooper claimed the Region 5-3A championship in the 1,600 with a time of 4:55.30 and took second in the 800 with a time of 2:05.26. Although he came up short of earning a spot in the state meet in the 800, he did advance in the 1,600 after taking seventh with a time of 4:44.57 in the 1600 at the Class 3A “A” sectional. At state, he clocked a time of 4:50.58. This is his first all-area selection.
• Nate Mays, Dalton: A junior who transferred from Gordon Central, Mays was versatile enough to compete in both sprints (100, 200, 4x100 relay) and discus and shot put. He was one of only two field performers from area schools to reach the state meet — teammate Hayden Gross was the other — where he finished seventh in shot put with a distance of 50-9. He earned his invitation to state with a fourth-place finish at the Region 7-4A meet (44-2) and an eighth-place finish at the Class 4A “A” sectional (47-6 1/4). Mays is also expected to contribute for the Cats during football season — the heavily recruited outside linebacker already has Division I scholarship offers to consider. This is his first all-area selection.
• Jordon McKinney, Dalton: While the sophomore standout didn’t advance to state in any event, he was the area’s strongest all-around performer in track and field this season and scored more than 15 percent of the Cats’ points as they won the Region 7-4A meet at home. He took second in triple jump and the 300 hurdles and was fifth in the 110 hurdles and helped both the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams place. Also a standout on the football field, even as an underclassman he has already proven himself one of the area’s most athletic performers. This is his second straight all-area selection.
• Luis Perez, Southeast: Great things would seem to be in store for Perez if his outstanding freshman season is any indication. A distance runner who competed in the 800 and 1,600 — he was chosen for The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Boys Cross Country Team this past fall — he missed out on a trip to state after coming up short at the Class 4A “A” sectional, but he turned in an outstanding Region 7-4A meet to reach that sectional meet. At region, he took first in the 800 with a time of (2:00.80) and was second in the 1,600 (4:43.07). During the regular season, he finished first in both events at the Gordon Lee Invitational and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe’s Warrior Invitational, was second in the 800 and first in the 1,600 in the Northwest/Southeast Invitational and was fifth in the 800 and fourth in the 1,600 at the Dalton Rotary Ronnie McClurg Invitational.
• Honorable mention: Dalton — Zek Cobb (Fr.), Kelvis Rhodes (Jr.); Murray County — Antonio Martinez (So.), Servio Martinez (Sr.); Northwest — Nick Bramblett (Sr.), Dylan Richards (Sr.).