No rest for the champs

Boys’ cross country gathers one last time for Meet of Champion

The Starr’s Mill cross country team huddles before the Meet of Champions. The team was invited to the meet one week after winning the GHSA State Championship.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

Just a week after the GHSA State Championship meet, the Starr’s Mill cross country runners were looking for some rest. However, before they could kick up their feet, they had to compete one last time. Coming off the Mill’s first ever cross country state championship, the Panthers’ top 12 runners laced up their sneakers to participate in the Meet of Champions organized by the USA Track and Field Georgia Association.

We were just so excited from that state championship that today was more of just a team bonding experience for us to run together for one last time to just see what we can do.”

— senior Harrison Fultz

“It’s a good chance to run against people from different divisions after the State meet, which is nice running against different competition,” Nyman said.

The Meet of Champions brought together 19 cross country teams from around the state to compete in the final meet of the year. Heritage Church hosted the event, the same location as the Panther Invitational and the Region 3-AAAAA race. Starr’s Mill finished 11th as a team. Senior Nick Nyman was the highest individual finisher from the Mill with a time of 16:06.54, good enough for 15th place.

While not organized by the Georgia High School Association, this meet was the final chance to see this historic group of Panther runners on a cross country course.

“We were just so excited from that state championship that today was more of just a team bonding experience for us to run together for one last time to just see what we can do,” senior Harrison Fultz said. Fultz finished 74th with a time of 17:08.61.

The meet concluded an up-and-down season for Starr’s Mill. Early in the season, the team traveled to North Carolina for the Providence invitational, in which Nyman finished second. Later in the year, the Panthers lost the region championship to McIntosh after a tiebreaker decision. These all led up to a state championship that included senior Rhett Perry crawling across the finish line in 22nd place after collapsing multiple times.

The coaches really cared about how I was feeling, how I was doing, and every practice I just motivated myself to hit another goal at every meet.”

— junior Thomas Hindy

Newcomers junior Thomas Hindy and sophomore Kolby Smith also began to make a name for themselves as the future runners for Starr’s Mill. Smith finished 138th out of the 180 runners this weekend, while Hindy came home 144th. Over the course of the season, Hindy shaved over a minute off of his 5K time.

“The whole team was like a family, and I’ve never really experienced that, and it really motivated me to do better in each race,” Hindy said. “The coaches really cared about how I was feeling, how I was doing, and every practice I just motivated myself to hit another goal at every meet, so once I hit that goal it was onto the next goal and the next. I felt like I was really achieving something.”

While the school experienced its first ever state championship, winning wasn’t new to some of the runners. Last year, the leader of the cross country team, Nyman, finished first at the state championship meet. In addition, many of the runners hold records in track and field. Nyman is the current school record-holder for the 1600-meter race, and Fultz, Perry, and senior Ty Duben were part of last year’s record-breaking 4×800-meter relay team. Nyman, Fultz, Duben, and Perry also secured a record for the 4×1600-meter relay last spring.

“It’s just a fun race to end the season,” Duben said. “It’s just a final chance for us to get a final race in and kind of enjoy it.”

This isn’t the final chance for Starr’s Mill fans to see these top runners compete. Many of them will be in action for track and field. For now, however, they will get some well-deserved rest.

Click the photogallery at the top of the page for some highlights of the Mill’s top male runners at this weekend’s invitational.

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