Bulldogs cross country to return ample experience
Bolen expecting great leadership on next year's team

CONYERS - Early injuries, specifically for the girls, were just one reason why the Rockdale cross country squads came up short of their goals his season.

Nevertheless, a more experienced group of runners will return next year to provide a lift for the program.

"I thought we started out very strong, but injuries really hurt us down the stretch," Rockdale coach Scott Bolen said. "I really think our girls team could have posted a better finish if Kaitlyn VanHeest had not hurt her ankle and Miranda Wright stayed healthy."

Prior to her injury, VanHeest finished first (22nd overall) for the Lady Bulldogs in the Jaguar Invitational with a time of 23 minutes, 28 seconds. She was 15th overall in the NewRock Meet (25:46.00).

Wright finished third (64th overall) for the Lady Bulldogs in the Aubrae Gunderson Invitational (25:13.72). She placed second on the team (eighth overall) in the Alcovy Last Chance Invitational (26:09.56) and 57th overall during the Region 8-AAAA meet (29:36.26).

"We didn't have many seniors, but I do think the ones we had, like Jesus Martinez, Kevin Brawley and Patti Murphy, really enjoyed cross country," Bolen said. "I believe that they will make running a part of their lifestyle for years to come.

"Additionally, they were all three great students and real examples of what a student-athlete should be."

Martinez finished second (137th overall) among the Bulldogs in the Jaguar Invitational with a time of 23:13.00.

Murphy took second (14th overall) in the NewRock Meet (25:43.00). She also was first (69th overall) among the Lady Bulldogs during the Wesleyan Meet (25:44.95).

Returning next year are Ken Shinmura and Lauren Coursey, who each finished first among the team in virtually every race this season.

Shinmura finished first among the team in the NewRock Meet (21:27.00), Alcovy Last Chance Invitational (21:50.44) and Jaguar Invitational (22:17.00).

Coursey placed first among the Lady Bulldogs in four meets, including the NewRock Meet (25:08.00), Aubrae Gunderson Invitational (24:28.11), Alcovy Last Chance Invitational (25:46.03) and Region 8-AAAA meet (24:40.51).

"Our kids have got to commit to working hard in the offseason and preparing for next year," Bolen said. "We will field a team full of seniors in 2009, and they must get focused and dedicated to the 2009 season. I would really like to see our seniors take an active leadership role next year."

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.