When Neely Lovett and Tracy Gamble took on the Cross Creek track and field program, neither knew exactly what to expect. With athletes coming to the new school from Butler and Hephzibah, they knew there was potential. But they had no idea they would have this kind of success so early.
"We went in with an open mind that the kids would be young," Lovett said. "We'd have to be patient, and hopefully good things would come out."
Gamble and Lovett, who team up to coach both the boys and girls programs, helped the Lady Razorbacks to a third-place finish in last season's state meet.
The duo will try to continue their state meet success when the boys team competes this weekend in Jefferson, Ga. Eleven boys will run in the three-day meet, which begins today.
By taking first in every event during the Region 3-AAA meet this week at Jefferson County, 11 girls qualified for next weekend's state meet in Albany, Ga.
Last season's finish has the Lady Razorbacks hungry for a state championship.
"That's what we're shooting for - a state title," Lovett said. "Last year, we ended up third, and we took approximately five girls."
The 2-year-old program has college recruiters drooling. Last year, three Lady Razorbacks signed letters of intent to run track in college - Lajuana Lovett (Southwest Texas State), Toujuana Sullivan (Fort Valley State) and Retrina Lovett (Fort Valley State).
This year, four athletes - Kenya Daniels, Cyndi Weaver, Morrico Williams and Tommy Garrett - are garnering heavy attention from several schools.
Lovett and Gamble said an extensive workout program is the reason for their success. Track and field athletes spend hours during the off-season working out in the weight room to get faster and stronger.
"We talk a lot about weights during football season," Lovett said. "But coach (Wayne) Baker and coach (Al Young) have done a tremendous job working with these kids in the weight room. Being stronger helps out a lot."
The boys team didn't qualify for the state meet last year, but Lovett and Gamble are confident the team will perform well.
"I know they're going to give us 110 percent," Lovett said. "Dealing with the state meet, there are so many athletes from all over, and we know the competition is stiff. But a lot of people don't get this opportunity. If we finish first, we'll be happy with that. Even if we finish fourth, fifth or sixth, that'll still be good to have, knowing we're a 2-year-old school."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.