Winning a state championship in any sport is extremely difficult; the chances of winning one is highly improbable, but the odds of being back- to- back as state champions in any sport is nearly impossible. The amount of hard work, effort and dedication and needed is immense. If a team can complete such a feat, they have undoubtedly proven that they are the best in their sport. This is exactly what the Wesleyan boys’ cross country team proved two weeks ago in Carrollton, GA when they won their second straight state championship. They proved that without a doubt, that they are the best runners that the state of Georgia’s 1-A classification has to offer. They are no longer just a good team, they are a great team. They are champions, and they will go down in history for the phenomenal work they have done.
The road to victory for the team began on Nov. 1 during the high school’s senior night pep-rally. At the beginning of the pep rally, the varsity cross country team was welcomed to the middle of the gym floor and was given a standing ovation for a phenomenal season so far. As the Wesleyan fight song blared and thunderous crowd continuously cheered, the team proceeded to run to the buses to head off to the state meet. Once on the bus, the team began their hour-long drive to Carrollton.
Upon arriving, the team did their pre-meet tradition of previewing the course. The athletes jogged the 5k course in order to get a feel for it and mentally prepare themselves for the challenging race they had the next day. After they completed their preview, the team went to check into their hotel, ate dinner and participated in team meetings. During these team meetings, the athletes got to participate in annual tradition: every year, previous cross country athletes write letters to the current team right before the state meet to provide words of encouragement and wisdom to help motivate the team. On the night before the meet, the current team gets an opportunity to read these letters. It is a special and emotional moment for all the runners that inspires them to do their best in the race. When the team meetings were over, the top seven runners raced off to bed to get a good night’s sleep to prepare for the meet.
The next morning, the athletes woke up bright and early at 5 a.m. to eat breakfast and make their way to the course. Upon arrival, the team warmed up for what would be a brutal race. While the top seven stretched, the other eight runners went to their designated stations across the course. These stations were put in place so that the runners could have encouragement and motivation while they were running throughout the race. After the warm-ups were over, the boys lined up and began the race. The temperature was 31 degrees, making it a very challenging experience for the runners. Senior Jackson Walls said, “It was numbingly cold, and I could not feel anything.” Despite the freezing temperature, the runners persevered, all while being cheered on by their teammates. After the boys crossed the finish line, they quickly ran to their team designated tent to check their results.
Once the results came in, the boys’ team was informed that they had clinched their second straight championship. The team roared with joy and excitement. This moment was the culmination of months of intense work, determination and sacrifice. Walls said, “It felt great to win because I knew all the hard work I put in over the past six months was worth it.” They could not celebrate too much because the girls’ team was up next. After they warmed up, the girls began their race. The experience was like the boys: tough. The girls persevered through the cold just like their counterparts, and when it was all said and done, they crossed the finish line, checked results and did phenomenally. The girls finished in third place, rounding off an incredible season for both teams.
Now that it is over, the Wesleyan community can look back at this cross country season and truly appreciate just how special it was. When asked about her feeling toward the season, junior Katherine Graddy said, “This cross country season was extra special not only because of the incredible times achieved, but especially because of the unique bonds formed between the team. Both the boys and girls had incredible seasons and was one of the most talented groups in a long time. Something that sets it apart is the incredible coaches as well because they invest so much into every person and season, no matter what the results.” Cross country coach and biology teacher Megan Trotter echoed those sentiments by saying, “What’s special about our team is that it’s not just about the seven girls or guys that are running. It’s not just about the race. It’s a team effort. Everyone has a role, and that’s something we have always preached. It’s about doing things through the power of the holy spirit and coming to the starting line knowing that you are accepted as you are, despite the outcome.” It is very rare that any community gets to witness the level of excellence and greatness that the cross-country team has produced. This team will forever be etched in the history of Wesleyan for doing the impossible and with the way this team looks, they might do the impossible again next year and pull off a three-peat. But for now, the team can celebrate this year’s victory with confidence.