CONYERS - Rockdale sophomore Forrest Freeman says he doesn't mind hearing, "Run, Forrest, run," a popular phrase in the 1994 movie "Forrest Gump," about a man who, among other things, loved to run.
"I used to hate (hearing the phrase)," Freeman said. "I used to cry about it. Well, I didn't cry, (but) I wasn't a fast runner."
Times have changed. Freeman, a first-year runner, was one of three Bulldogs to finish in the top 10 on Tuesday at a home cross country meet. Freeman's time of 20:35 was a little more than a minute better than 11th-place Ken Shinmura, a senior who ran in 21:44. Senior Ferris Barber, also in his first season, finished 22nd at 22:51.
Rockdale coach Chester Fuller was happy with how his top boys ran.
"(Freeman was) a little bit of a surprise (coming into the season); he's been pretty consistent," Fuller said. "He's doing some nice things for us. We need that balance at the top; (Shinmura) was one of our top finishers last year. He's been running well for us."
Monroe Area's Spencer Cape won the boys race at a blistering 17:54.
On the girls' side, seniors Lauren Coursey and Emily Boyer led the way with seventh-place (26:48) and eighth-place (27:26) finishes, respectively.
"They just gut it out; they're just competitors," Fuller said. "You can expect them to compete (and) both are seniors. They've been doing this for four years now."
In a closely packed bunch, sophomore Jazzmine Coley placed 13th (30:02), senior Lindsey Geise was 14th (30:12), sophomore Brittany Connor took 15th (30:39) and senior Abbie Lewis was 17th at 31:33.
"They usually finish pretty tight in the pack," Fuller said of his girls team. "They're good at motivating each other, (and) they've been running well together, doing a nice job for us."
No one could catch Monroe Area sophomore Brandi Lott, a first-year cross country runner, who won the girls race in 22:48 despite the low-90s temperature.
"I'd rather run in cool weather, (but) I felt great running against them," Lott said. "I run track, so I want to improve my mile time."
Rockdale is hoping this performance is a springboard for a successful season. Last year's team wasn't able to complete the region race, something Fuller plans on changing.
"Last year we didn't finish the region meet. (The goal) is to field a team at the region meet," Fuller said. "I want to compete ... I want them to do their best."
"We're doing good as a team," Freeman said. "Good leadership and everybody gets along. It's a good thing."
Rockdale returns to its home course Monday for the NewRock Meet, with Heritage, Salem and the three Newton County teams expected to attend.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.