CONYERS - When looking ahead to 2009, it's difficult to surmise a more productive year than this season regarding Heritage cross country.
After all, the boys team - for the first time in school history - captured a region championship and finished a school-record best fourth in the Class AAAA state championships.
"We're going to continue to work hard in the classroom and be outstanding citizens at school," Heritage coach Brian Smith said. "Also, continue to do the little things in the off season to improve themselves as runners."
The boys finished 125-10 overall and were victorious in six of the eight events on Heritage's schedule.
"I'm very satisfied. This team has set the standard for teams to come," Smith acknowledged. "The boys had many historical accomplishments for our program."
Another notable achievement included an 11th straight region championship.
In fact, the Patriots set several individual records and had the second-fastest 5K runner in school history (16 minutes and 57 seconds, senior Jake Hudson).
Hudson, who finished 10th overall at state, certainly had a banner year. According to Smith, his seniors brought leadership and dedication to the program, which will be greatly be missed come next season.
Freshman Brandon Harrison set a school-record in the 5K with a time of 17:19, while the second-fastest sophomore time at Heritage was set by Darius Calhoun (17:17).
Harrison also placed third in region, and was 20th overall at state.
The fourth-fastest junior 5K mark was recorded by Aaron Worthy (17:26). Worthy finished 26th overall at state.
As for the Lady Patriots, they finished 12th overall at state and had three freshmen place among their top five runners.
Furthermore, their top six runners recorded personal bests at the state meet.
"We were fortunate to have a pretty good mix of young," Smith said, "hungry talented runners who had been working in the program for a while and making improvements."
One such young runner is freshman Simone Worthy, who was this year's area champion. She finished 25th overall at state.
"We want to continue to work hard and train smart in the off season and have each of our athletes improve as distance runners," Smith said.
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.