He was all choked up and for good reason.
His cross-country teams had not only exceeded his wildest expectations, but they did it in convincing style.
In the boys’ race, Sam Bowie and Andrew Coggins captured the seventh and eighth spots, respectively, in the Class AAAA race as LaGrange took fourth place in the GHSA cross country state finals in Carrollton on Saturday.
Bowie’s time was 17 minutes seven seconds, and Coggins finished at 17:08. Marist runner Michael Thurston won the event with a time of 16:12.
In the girls’ race, junior Sarah Bearden lived up to all the hype surrounding her record-breaking season as she battled to finish in sixth place in the girls race.
Marists’ Morgan Ilse won the girls event with a time of 19:16.
Marist won the boys event, followed by Alexander, Wayne County and LaGrange.
The Marist girls also finished first.
“It was awesome,” Wilson said after the boys’ race. “I’m so proud of them. They ran a smart race and they put their hearts on the line. I’ll tell you, I’m so proud of them.”
Not only did the first teams to run on Saturday have to deal with the 38-degree temperatures, but they also had to run both races with an extremely heavy frost that covered the landscape at Carrollton Elementary School, which is adjacent to Carrollton High.
As the frost melted under the morning sun, the course turned from slippery to wet, making conditions treacherous while runners navigated the difficult hills and uneven terrain. Add to that more than 200 runners from 32 schools on the course and runners had to exercise caution when packed together on the curves.
Coggins was ahead of his teammate and good friend, Bowie, during the first mile of the race, but Bowie, who was running at the middle school a year ago as an eighth grader, managed to overtake Coggins about two-thirds of the way through to finish strong in the seventh position.
“Sam’s a late kicker and he caught up with me and I held strong and held my own and I finished better than I (thought I would),” Coggins said. “The course is slow. It’s been great and it was a really good way to end the season. This is exactly how I wanted to end it.”
Bowie said he and Coggins pushed each other.
“I caught up to him (Coggins) and we were sort of running together for a while and that’s what made us do so well,” Bowie said after the race. “We were sort of competing against each other. It was a great race. The course is a little slow, there’s a lot of hills and it’s all grassy and the course was still wet so it was a little slick. The course was about a minute slow, but it was fun.”
In the girls race, Bearden’s sixth-place finish with a time of 20:13 was well behind her school record-breaking run last week at the Region 4-AAAA meet of 19:03, but the course conditions Saturday at Carrollton accounted for slower times across the board.
“I was really shocked at my time. I know this is a really slow course, but that was incredibly slow,” Bearden said while catching her breath after her race. “I just charged up the hills the best I could and I passed quite a few people on them. It’s the second time I’ve run this course in my second year of running, so I’m pretty happy with what I got.”
Wilson was very pleased with Bearden’s effort and her keen attention to her race plan.
“She just ran a great race,” Wilson said. “She was smart and sat back. I think she was about 10th at the mile mark and she went to work at the mile mark and she ran that second mile like we talked about and she just executed the plan to perfection.”
Wilson, a former cross-country runner himself who ran the same course 10 years ago as a high-school senior, knows the kind of work and dedication required to compete at the state level.
“We knew coming into it we had a good shot to finish in the top 10 and as the race developed I kept counting the places and I kept thinking, ‘our guys are right there. We’re right there for a top 5 finish.’ And knowing the top four get on the podium, the top four get trophies, it was just a waiting game and as soon as I saw the results pop up with our name in fourth, we were just ecstatic,” Wilson said. “All our hard work paid off. I’ve been hard on them all year, because we knew how much potential they had and they worked hard all year and to see pay off like this for them is a great feeling.”
In the boys’ race, Jonathan Pelham (18:12) was LaGrange’s third runner, and he finished 39th overall.
Adrian Wyatt (18:27) was 51st, and Garrett Cashwell (19:06), Darius Jackson (19:48) and Garrett Godby (20:12) were LaGrange’s other runners.
In the girls’ race, Ellie Doerr (23:40) was 80th overall and second on the team, and Emilia Arthur (23:44) was 84th.
LaGrange’s other runners were Violeta Haro-Oropeza (25:51), Brooke Yarbrough (26:00), Colleen Riggs (26:46) and Destiny Brown (30:20).