Greenbrier High School's Miguel Mota.
Photo by Jim BlaylockWhen Miguel Mota and Bailey Mahoney start a prep cross-country race, they are just two runners lost in a sea of faces.
At the finish line, though, they are easy to spot - champions run alone.
Mota, a Greenbrier High School sophomore, is a two-time Region 3-AAAA individual champion. He sets new school records every meet, and isn't slowing down. Mota's latest record time of 16:44 shaved a minute off the mark he established as a freshman.
"As a team, when you have a top runner, everyone else strives to be just as good," Mota said. "That sort of gives you the ego to be No. 1. The competition made me faster. I've trained a lot harder this year."
Mota is serious about leading the Pack, but he doesn't mind giving Greenbrier a little levity.
"We use his name as kind of a joke, but it really makes sense," Greenbrier coach Kati Smallwood said. "He's our 'Mota-vation' because he is the lead runner and has so much enthusiasm for the sport. His intensity at practice is untouchable."
Lakeside High School's Bailey Mahoney.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The same can be said of Mahoney. The Lakeside High School freshman made winning the Region 3-AAAA individual cross country crown look easy, but traversing 3.1 miles of rugged terrain is hard work.
"It can get really tough, but I've seen a lot of movies about runners, like Steve Prefontaine. He says 'I can endure more pain than anybody else,"' she said. "I think about those runners and how successful they were. I just try to think what they thought and that helps a lot."
Mahoney began running with the Lady Panthers when she was still in middle school, and her desire to compete comes naturally.
"My parents inspired me a lot, because my dad's a runner and my mom has been a runner. Sometimes I may get frustrated, but they're always pushing me to do my best."
Mota and Mahoney will be the top Columbia County athletes at the Class AAAA championships this weekend in Carrollton. Mota is ranked No. 9 in the state, and is the only sophomore in the top 10 - his goal is to live up to that billing.
Mahoney, meanwhile, is anxious to see where she stacks up at state.
"I can't wait," she said. "I've been working hard all season, and it's just so exciting I get to go my freshman year."
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