Smiths Station cross country coach Ron Peters deemed 2017 a tough season for his boys runners. That said, the Panthers were able to press on through a trying fall and end the year on a high note.
Peters’ Panthers dealt with injury issues for a good portion of the year, including the Class 7A state meet. Despite the hindrances and ailments, Smiths Station stayed the course and ended the state meet with an eighth-place finish.
Thanks to his work with the Panthers runners, Peters has been chosen as the 2017 All-Bi-City Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year.
“This was probably one of the toughest (seasons) we’ve had,” Peters said. “ Through all that, the guys really gelled together. Teamwise we looked good, but it was a big mixture of kids. It wasn’t the same guys. It was younger guys stepping up.”
The state meet was symbolic of Smiths Station’s 2017 season in general. Junior runner Chandler Moulton had to drop out of the race while amongst the top 25 runners, halted by a hamstring injury. Fellow junior Tallon Hairston had to pull up in the race as well, ultimately finishing 46th due to a quad strain.
Hairston’s determination along with the efforts of runners such as Silas Franklin -- who finished seventh -- helped the Panthers hold their heads high with a top-10 finish.
As important as the quickest times can be, Peters stressed how important growth is in his runners. Peters brought up the efforts of Gabe Dubberly, who came to his coach before his sophomore year with the goal of becoming a much more productive runner for the team. Dubberly followed his coach’s lead and put in the work, and by season’s end his improvements were undeniable.
After regularly clocking in around 20 minutes, Dubberly set a new personal record with a 17:40 at the state meet.
“For me, that’s probably one of the biggest things,” Peters said. “I think sometimes we miss that when we looked at the highlights in all sports. It’s the guys who overcome adversity or get better out of nowhere. That was pretty awesome.”
Peters and his runners might have wanted a better finish at state, but the good news is they’ll have an excellent shot to do so in 2018. Though they are graduating a few contributors from this year’s team, they have several promising runners returning, including top runner Silas Franklin.
Peters knows as well as anyone that nothing is guaranteed, but with the amount of talent that is returning to Smiths Station in 2018, the team should have a real shot at doing something special.
“I’m pretty sure eight or nine of our guys in the top 10 ran the fastest they’ve ever ran this year,” Peters said. “You can’t ask for anything more than that. That’s the ultimate goal because you know they’re giving 110 percent.
“Now, we’ve just got to push to go to the next level.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports