His team finishing second in the region was not how Phillip McHood envisioned his final season with South Aiken High School's cross country team.
"We trained really hard, and we put in a lot of effort," said McHood, a senior, who now is looking ahead to the track and field season and hoping for better results.
The boys cross country team had won several consecutive region titles, said coach Russ Busbee, who believes McHood felt it was on his shoulders to win another title.
"He felt the mantle had passed to him," Busbee said.
McHood sets high goals for himself, then gives all he has to reach those goals, Busbee said.
"His biggest problem is sticking to the plan. He wants to do the plan, plus a little more," he said.
Those strong leadership skills make McHood valuable in any arena, and he's no slouch when it comes to running despite his being too hard on himself, the coach said.
McHood enjoys running long distances, so cross country seemed to be a natural fit. During the summer, he trained hard and ran between 60 to 80 miles a week, he said.
With the track and field season beginning in a few months, McHood is looking at lowering his time in the 800-meter race.
"He's the best 800-meter guy I have," Busbee said. "He's a dedicated individual."
Long-distance running develops more than good leg muscles, said McHood , who started running to build his stamina and endurance so he could play soccer.
When he began running cross country as a sophomore at South Aiken, he dropped soccer.
"I felt I had more potential (in cross country)," he said.
Not only has running helped him develop physically, it has helped in his spiritual well-being, he said.
"I've found God in running," he said. "I feel closer to him."
Sometimes, it takes a little extra faith when running extreme distances.
"There is so much pain, I have to humble myself and ask for his help to finish," he said.
Despite the seemingly solitary nature of the two sports, McHood said he's forged lasting friendships with his teammates.
"I'm encouraged every time I come to the track. It's like a family feel," he said.
McHood, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also is involved in the National Honor Society at South Aiken.
He still has not decided on a college but wherever he goes he will major in either math or science, he said.
>Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at firstname.lastname@example.org.