When Greenbrier High School freshman Miguel Mota won the Region 3-AAAA cross country meet last week at the Brierpatch, he wasn't jumping for joy.
Greenbrier High School's Boston Blake tries to recover after running a race on a stress-fractured ankle.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
After crossing the finish line, his mind was focused on one thing.
''Water," Mota said after finishing the 5-kilometer run on an unseasonably hot October day.
For Mota and the other prep athletes competing in cross country, a cool drink takes precedence over a championship celebration.
Cross Country is an unheralded sport, and it's no game.
The evidence is etched on the faces of the finishers.
When Lakeside's Sara Cermenaro completed the Region 3-AAAA race at Greenbrier, she posted a time of 26:42, but she measured her performance in another manner.
''I'm sorry. I threw up 12 times," Cermenaro told Lakeside coach Bill Richey, who sympathetically responded, ''You kept count - that's good."
Statesboro's Kristi Mutter placed fourth in the girls' race, which earned her a spot in Saturday's state meet in Carrollton, Ga. But in the aftermath of the region run, she said, ''I don't want to go to state."
In cross country, the rigors can outweigh the rewards.
Runners cover one circuitous route, but over a standard 3.1-mile course they are impeded by innumerable roots and rocks. A misstep can lead to a twisted ankle or worse.
The constant pounding during miles of training runs and in meets takes a toll, according to Greenbrier coach Kati Smallwood.
''We've had some little knick-knack things left and right, and some pretty serious, plaguing injuries," she said.
Exhausted Lakeside High School runner Sara Cermenaro is comforted by coach Bill Richey after the Columbia County Invitational.
Photo by Mike Howell
Greenbrier senior Carly Jackson has been running cross country for the last three years, but she was sidelined this season by shin splints, a painful condition which is common to the sport.
Jackson returned in time for the Region 3-AAAA meet and finished 12th. Her comeback helped the Lady Wolfpack win a sixth straight region title.
Greenbrier's Boston Blake has teammates, but he was on his own during the Region 3-AAAA meet. He posted a time of 18:59 to place seventh individually, which isn't bad - considering he was running on a fractured ankle.
''I just love the sport; I wanted to go to state, and this is a great team to run with," said Blake.
In some sports, an athlete often finds the inspiration to rise above adversity. In cross country, however, mental toughness is superseded by physical limitations.
Last week at Harlem High School, Harlem senior Laura Tam was vying for her fourth-straight individual region championship. But Tam could not overcome a knee injury and finished seventh.
Augusta Preparatory Day Schools senior David Bell was determined to win individual honors at the Georgia Independent School Association's state cross country meet, which was held Oct. 13 in Forsyth, Ga.
Bell set a fast early pace but was ill that day; he eventually placed fourth, collapsing at the finish line.
The consolation was helping Augusta Prep win its first state championship in cross country.
''I just tried to run for the team that day instead of running for myself," Bell said.
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