By Chris Whitfield
When your school has a Colt as its mascot, you better be good at running.
So, it is fitting the very first region championship in the history of Coahulla Creek High School would come from its cross country team.
“It is pretty huge,” Colts cross country coach Josh Deslattes said. “We are excited, and the school is pretty excited. They have all the banners up around school and we will have a pep rally to send us off on Friday. It is pretty awesome.”
The boys team swept the top four spots at the finish of the Region 5-3A meet last week in Cartersville and will be one of several local teams competing in the state cross country meet Saturday at Carrollton High School. The Lady Colts were third in the region and qualified for state as well, and Class 3A will start the day over the 5K (3.1-mile) course with the boys racing at 7:45 a.m. and the girls to follow at 8:30.
This is the third straight trip to the state meet for the boys but the first as a region champion.
Coahulla Creek is in its third year of existence, and senior runner Sadoth Fraire has been a mainstay for the team since its first year. Fraire led the pack of Colts at region, winning the individual title with a personal best of 17 minutes, 3 seconds.
“We will be more experienced having been there before,” Fraire said. “Most of us know what we are doing now. In practice, we keep up the same speed and pace. We are all very close in time and all have the same strengths. That is what keeps us all together.”
That pack mentality certainly paid off at region. Freshman Walt Douglas was second, junior Misael Fraire was third and junior Timothy Hooper was fourth. All finished the course in under 18 minutes. The Colts’ fifth scoring time was from Oscar Andres’ 12th-place finish.
“Even if we don’t have a top-10 finish with an individual, when you have kids coming in right back to back and have those scores all crunched together, that is a big deal,” Deslattes said. “You could see that at region with all of them piled up on top of each other.”
The Colts have perhaps the state’s best team to compete against in Atlanta’s St. Pius X. When its team won its region, St. Pius’ average time was 15:02 — more than two minutes better for a team than Sadoth Fraire’s first-place finish at region. Because of the competition, the team has realistic goals.
“We are really shooting for a top-10 finish,” Deslattes said. “The number one team in the state in all classifications is in our class, so we are realistic and don’t think we are going to win the state title. We are going for our first top-10 finish and would like to have a strong showing.”
The previous best finish for the Colts was an 11th-place finish last year.
Sadoth Fraire isn’t selling his team.
“I am thinking top five,” he said. “That is my goal. We have the times to do that.”
But there are also new faces on the team with Douglas and Hooper. Hooper transferred to Coahulla Creek over the summer after moving from River Ridge in Cherokee County. He says it is a different environment in Varnell from where he came from.
“I didn’t run my freshman year, so when I went out for my sophomore year, it was a real closed off group,” Hooper said. “At Coahulla Creek, they were more open. I was welcomed and everyone talked to me so I felt like it was more of a family here.”
The team will take nine runners to Carrollton — seven will race with two alternates — in the seven-runners, five-score team event. The training for Carrollton has also been different because of the early start time of the races. The Colts can be seen running around the school as students arrive for the start of the school day.
“They guys were the ones who brought that up, so I can’t claim that as a coach,” Deslattes said. “They asked about being ready for the temperatures that early in the morning so they wanted to practice early to be ready for it.”
The forecast for Carrollton on Saturday morning according to The Weather Channel is for temperatures in the low 40s.
“Cool is nice, but cold — what we are afraid is going to happen — you get tight and you have to stretch and be ready for it,” Deslattes said. “Getting used to it and really getting ready to run at that time of the day is a big deal. Temperature can be adjusted for, but knowing they have to wake up and get ready to run and get loosened up, it affects them mentally.”
But he likes his team’s chances at a strong finish, no matter what the weather may bring.
“I think it is a great group of kids,” he said. “Any time I tell them to run harder, they run harder. Any time I talk to them about their form, they correct it. We talked about hills and leaning into the hills, and the next thing, they are all doing it. They want to do well and learn how to do well.”