While planning out the season, Greenbrier cross country coach Kati Smallwood decided her team should attend a meet at the Statesboro, Ga., course where the Wolfpack will compete for the Region 2-AAAA championship.
It might turn out to be a great decision.
During the race, Chris Wilder was ahead by a considerable margin when he accidentally veered off-track.
"A funny thing happened. He was like 45 seconds ahead of the No. 2 runner, and he took a wrong turn on the course," Smallwood said. "It cut off like 20 feet, so they (disqualified) him."
The winner that day ran a time of 17:06. Wilder's time was about 16:20. Fortunately, Smallwood said, it happened before the big race later in the season.
Wilder's determination this summer vaulted him to the top of Greenbrier's boys cross country team. He put in countless miles and also attended the Nike Running Camp in Asheville, N.C.
"If you work hard over the summer, you would like to start out where you left off at the end of last season," Smallwood said. "He has done that. The time he ran in the first race was where his fastest time was last year."
Wilder set the Blanchard Woods Park course record in the season's first race. He admitted his goal for the day was a time of about 17:45. Instead, he made it in 17:11, beating the record by one second.
Then, at the Alexander Early Bird event, he finished in the top 10 while setting Greenbrier's junior class record. The mark had been 16:23, but he shattered it in a time of 15:57, coming close to the overall school record of 15:52.
Then, in a meet at the University of Georgia, Wilder was sixth in a field of more than 200 runners.
The strong results came about because of hard work during the summer. The will to get better is something he has had all along, Smallwood noted.
"I would say that most of Chris' ability right now is due to just hard work and determination," she said. "And it pays off. It's such a great example to the others."
Wilder started competing in track in eighth grade, then joined the high school team as a freshman. He competes in the one-mile, two-mile and 800 meters.
In his sophomore year, cross country started out as something to keep him in shape between track seasons, but it turned into somewhat of a passion.
Wilder has become a connoisseur of the sport. During a race, he said, he practices reading other runners.
"I just pick people off, really," he said. "The last bit of the race, I'll be like, 'OK, I can catch him. I can catch him. I see him dying out.'"
Smallwood said Wilder embraces the importance of doing things by the book, such as going hard on hard days and lightening up a little to rest the muscles on light days.
"He really has absorbed and really finds important all of the reasons we do things," she said. "He does the workouts just like they're designed. That's another thing that's really paying off for him."
As the Oct. 30 region championship approaches, Smallwood believes Wilder has an opportunity to win the boys title. One of his top competitors will be Sid Vaughn, a junior at Lakeside who has put up similar times.
At 5-foot-3, Wilder isn't exactly the prototypical tall, lanky runner, though Smallwood said he does have long legs and an efficient stride. He is one of several athletes in his family -- his brothers Curtis, 17; Corey, 14; Cameron, 13; and Cyrus, 7, all play sports.
He hopes to continue running after high school.
"I'm going to do it in college," said Wilder, who has an A-average in the classroom. "I'm doing this because I like it and because it's going to help me get into college."
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