To surpass last season’s third-place showing in the state Class A meet, its best finish in program history, the time to put in the work started then, not in August.
“We’re doing stuff now that we did at midseason last year,” senior Dylan Kidder said.
For Kidder and fellow seniors Carson Waln, Matthew Palay and Aaron Gordon, the mileage and the ambition were higher than ever this summer as they put in the most offseason work of their high school careers.
The past three seasons, they’ve finished eighth, fourth and third, respectively, in the state meets. Whether it was going to camp in Asheville, N.C., or thrice-weekly runs along the Chattahoochee River, there’s still room to go up.
“We’re all ready to try to win a state championship,” Palay said.
The Scots lost top runner Calvin Henry, who finished in 16 minutes, 46 seconds at the state meet in Carrollton last season to place seventh overall, but they return sophomore Reilly Friedman, who earned a personal record (16:59) at state and will be the team’s No. 1 runner this season.
Despite all runners setting personal bests at Carrollton last season, there was some residual disappointment in their finish they are looking to erase in 2012. After all, the Scots were, at one point, ranked No. 1 in Class A and No. 9 across all five classifications.
This year, they enter the season ranked No. 3 in Class A in the ga.milesplit.com poll, behind Athens Academy and Darlington. They ran their first meet at Our Lady of Mercy Saturday, which is also the site of the Region 5-A meet Oct. 27, finishing third overall out of 23 teams and first among Class A teams in attendance, and will head to Berry College for the Berry Invitational Sept. 8.
“I think we feel very confident with where we’re at,” Waln said. “We have a lot of experience on our team, and there is some pressure. I think we all realize it’s our last year together to make a run for state.”
Denny Beatty, in his fourth year as head coach, entered the program with these guys as freshmen and calls himself a senior along with them. He places trust in their abilities to rally their teammates and themselves to the action necessary to turn a close finish into a state title.
“We’re really relying on these four seniors to lead us in our workouts, lead them in how to take care of our bodies the other 21, 22 hours we’re not in practice,” Beatty said. “We talk about positive habits. We talk about our sleep and our diet. We really harp on that as much as we can. I feel like this group is probably our best leadership group that we’ve had at Galloway.”
Perhaps this is the year. Defending state champion Wesleyan has moved up to Class AA. Runner-up First Presbyterian Day graduated top runner Gray Lindley, who finished second overall at state in 2011.
Yet, what other schools are doing does not concern the Scots. The way they see it, it is entirely in their hands what happens this fall.
“This year’s kind of a culmination of all of our work the past couple years,” Kidder said. “Now we know we’re really going for it. It’s time.”
At Galloway, students take a stronger role in their own educations than at more traditional schools, and that philosophy carries over into athletics, especially with this group of seniors.
“They have their work cut out for them,” Beatty said. “I ask a lot of them and probably will all the way up until the region meet. That’s who we are at Galloway. We’re student-led, student-run in a lot of things we do.”
They’ve paved the way for, at the very least, greater interest in the program, with 42 Galloway students now in the ranks.
But there’s so much more they know they can accomplish.
“Even if they don’t necessarily remember your name, they can look up at one of the banners up there and see 2012 State Cross Country Champions,” Waln said. “To leave something like that behind, I think all of us want to be able to do that.”