For the Central High boys track and field team, talent was never a problem. Belief that their ability was good enough to put them among the best teams in the state, however, may have held it back in past years.
For the Shaw girls team, youth was expected to be the problem as it began competition this spring.
As it turns out, though, neither potential shortcoming did anything to hold their respective teams back.
The Central boys finished third in their sectional and sixth in the AHSAA Class 6A meet, while Shaw was fifth overall at the GHSA Class AAAA meet.
They were led by students Tyree Reed and Breeanna Mahone and coaches Charles Fortune and Edgar Johnson, respectively. For their efforts, those four have been named All-Bi-City athletes and coaches of the year.
Reed's individual finishes this year were impressive. He was fourth in the state in both 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles and was a part of two relay teams, the 4x100 and 4x400, that finished third in the state.
None of that may have happened, Reed said, if not for an unfortunate injury that forced him to give up football. A torn meniscus led to an ultimatum from doctors: football or track. He couldn't do both. He decided on track and, as a result, had a fall offseason full of endurance training that prepared him for the spring.
"It paid off," he said. "I think devoting time to track made all the difference. We didn't expect this kind of success, but we worked hard and did a great job with extra work after practice to get it done."
Red Devils coach Charles Fortune pointed out that this team, the core of which had been together for four years, always had the talent. It took a little more confidence this year to take the next step.
"A lot of it started with the group of guys in their freshman year," he said. "The combination of the work throughout that time up through their senior year, they understood what they needed to do to succeed at a high level. It was mental building more than anything, because they've always had the talent. This year was really kind of the first year they believed wholeheartedly, and that made the difference."
Mahone, just a sophomore this year, had already found plenty of success as a freshman, winning athlete of the year for the 2013 All-Bi-City team.
In her sophomore year, she finished second at state in the 400 again, improved from 12th to second in the long jump and was seventh in the 200. Overall, she finished fifth individually at the state meet.
"I worked hard," said Mahone, who acknowledged that it's going to take even more work to take it to the next level as a junior. "It's not easy to finish first, so it's going to take even more to take that next step."
Shaw has plenty of time to grow, as well, featuring a relatively young core of athletes. Johnson said it was a welcome surprise to see his team perform so well despite its youth.
It finished just a point out of fourth place at the state meet this year after finishing fourth in 2013.
"Hopefully they'll return next year as hungry as they were this year," he said. "Considering the level of competition, I thought they did a great job."