When Augusta Preparatory Day School's Ashwin Rajendra and Abby Alexander step to the starting line for a cross country meet, they aren't just running to beat the clock and their competitors.
and Abby Alexander
Augusta Preparatory Day School
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Their motivation also is to live up to a legacy.
"Going back to David Bell and Caroline Bennett, there's a tradition here of having good distance runners," Prep coach Mike Burley said. "With the early success those kids had, the younger runners come in and think, 'Maybe that's a sport I can excel at, too."'
Rajendra and Alexander already have etched their names in the Augusta Prep record books. Last year Rajendra helped the Cavaliers capture their first cross country state championship, while Alexander paced the Prep girls to second at state in 2001, which was the team's best-ever showing in the Georgia Independent Schools Association meet.
"It's going to be a lot harder to win state this year," Rajendra said of Saturday's state championship race in Macon. "But we have a good team. If we work hard I think we can do it."
Rajendra is a senior, so he's gunning for glory in his final meet. Alexander is a sophomore, and is anxious to see the Lady Cavaliers earn a title of their own this weekend.
"Seeing the boys win last year was a big inspiration," she said. "We're trying to win state this year."
Alexander also has a chance to take individual honors at state. Earlier this season she posted a school-record time of 19:47, which is tops in the GISA this season.
Prep's cross country stars have excelled in their sport because of dedication and self-motivation. The story is the same in the classroom, where Alexander maintains a 4.0 grade-point average, and Rajendra has topped 1,500 on the SAT. The 16-year-old senior lists Harvard, Georgia Tech and MIT as college choices.
Mastering mental challenges may be the key to the pair's success in athletics and academics.
"Being a school that's academic in nature lends itself to a kid who is a goal-setter and has internal motivation," Burley says. "It takes a special person to go out and run six or seven miles a day, because there's not a lot of glory in cross country."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.