Northside High track and field star Ventavious Sears entered his senior season trying to earn an elusive individual state championship. Shaw's Breeanna Mahone began her freshman season simply trying to get things started on the right foot.
The resulting seasons were more than either could have expected, as Sears earned a state title in the triple jump and Mahone took second in the 400-meter dash.
But that was not all they did on their way to earning the boys and girls All-Bi-City track and field athletes of the year awards.
Of course, they received help from their coaches Joe Sanders (Northside) and Edgar Johnson (Shaw), which were named boys and girls coaches of the year, respectively.
Never miss a local story.
Sears had taken second place in the triple jump in both his sophomore and junior seasons. Coming into his senior year, he said winning state was his primary goal.
Despite being late to the track due to a final four run in basketball, Sears joined with the track team in March and never looked back.
"As soon as that was over, I had to focus and give everything I had to track," he said. "I got back into track shape, started running good times. I just didn't let up and stayed focused."
Sears was also the Bi-City's best in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 37.38 seconds. Sears also earned honorable mention as part of Northside's 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.
Sears made a big impact as a leader on the team as soon as he rejoined. Sanders, his coach, said Sears probably could have done even better, but he was just as concerned about helping his teammates improve as he was himself. The result for Northside was a fourth-place finish at state, its highest ever.
"He's a humble young man," Sanders said. "He never brags, never boasts. He had a chance to break several records if he was concerned about just him, but we had a young team and he was helping nurture those guys. To me, that's just the type of guy he is, to make that sacrifice."
Now Sears is headed to Western Kentucky, where he hopes to continue his success.
"I want to have an impact as a freshman," he said. "I'm going to give the best I can and hope for the best. I just have to work hard to be able to compete at that level."
Mahone came into this season as an unknown, new to the high school level. The result was a 12th-place finish at state in the long jump, a sixth-place finish in the 200 and a second-place finish in the 400.
She's not an unknown anymore.
"She came a long way this year in terms of times she ran and distances in long jump," Johnson said. "Just knowing the kind of person she is, if she continues working, she has a chance in a couple years. Who knows, she could be among the very best."
She was a leader on Shaw, which is always among the state's top contenders and didn't disappoint this season, finishing fourth in Class AAAA.
Johnson said he expects Mahone to be an integral piece to the Lady Raiders over the next three years.
"She's an extremely hard worker for one thing," he said. "She's a competitor, a tremendous competitor. She's the kind of person where, if you give her direction, she goes full speed. You really have to slow her down sometimes because she goes so hard.
"That's a good thing."
Mahone was the Bi-City's best in the long jump (18-0), 200 (25.08) and 400 (56.51). She was also on Shaw's Bi-City best 4x100 (47.68) and 4x400 (3:50.60) relay teams.
For track and field coaches, Sanders said it's a shifting job that depends on the needs of the athletes.
Sometimes you need to be more hands-on, other times you need to support.
"It's a little bit of everything," he said. "There's motivation, good organization. You have to be able to adapt. There's so many events that you have to supervise and know where you want to go in each event. You have to be on your toes."
Call that a success for Sanders, who has helped lead Northside into the state conversation in boys track and field.
Sanders praised his coaching staff and, of course, his athletes, but his athletes recognize his contribution to their success.
"He's coached me since freshman year," Sears said. "He was onto me early on because he knew I had potential and he wanted me to reach it. My junior and senior year, he trusted that I could get it done, and I did."
A competitive individual, Sanders said there's still nowhere to go but up for the Patriots.
"Whenever you feel like there's nothing left to accomplish, it's time to get out of the game," he said. "It's good to learn things and continue to grow. That's what it's all about."
Over the years, Johnson has established himself as the premier girls track and field coach in the area. His teams are consistently among the state's best, and 2013 was no exception.
Perhaps it was more of a challenge, but his athletes rose to the occasion, he said.
"They came a long way this year," he said. "They were a hardworking group. We had young kids, and they produced a lot toward the end of the season, which helped in region, sectional and state competition. If they continue to improve, I think they'll continue to excel."
He said his main role this season with a lot of new athletes was as a leader and, of course, instructor.
"With a young group, there's more coaching that's involved to help them be more productive," he said. "Again, I think they adapted well and worked very hard."
Johnson retired as a teacher at Shaw at the end of this season, but he said he plans to continue to work with the team in whatever capacity he is able. If that means he's a head coach, great. If not, he'll still be getting his hands dirty.
"I will be involved in some way, whether it's volunteer or whatever," he said. "I still enjoy working with these kids. Stepping down from teaching can give me the best of both worlds. I'll have a little more free time, but still an opportunity to continue doing something I've really enjoyed."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter@leprepsports.