Grace Christian Academy gears up for cross country season

Published 4:13 pm Thursday, August 24, 2023

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The Cougar Cross Country team is under new management, but the product has stayed the same.

First-year Head Coach Heather Smith brings 30 years of coaching experience to the Grace team. Sophomore Walker Elrod and Freshman Tatiana Smith lead the men’s and women’s teams.

“[Walker] is a hard worker, and he has goals, and he wants to attain those goals,” Smith said. “[Tatiana] happens to be my daughter, so she’s been well coached.”

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Elrod is looking to build upon his freshman year. He ended last season with a personal best of 16:47.3. He dropped 30 seconds from that time in his first meet of this season. 

Elrod said his goals this season are to win the state championship and break the Georgia sophomore state record of 14:49:08.

“I want to be the fastest there ever was in Georgia,” Elrod said.

Freshman Smith leads the women’s team. The squad is made up of Smith and three volleyball players: Kate Sigman, Kate Poitevint and Sybil Lee. 

Five of the eleven runners on the team play another sport. Smith said they can’t make every practice but has been pleased to see them when they show up. Smith said she was pleasantly surprised when her volleyball runners showed up for practice the day after a game. 

“I didn’t expect them to get to practice because they had a game the day before,” Smith said. “They said, ‘Hey coach, we just have to leave a little early because we have to get to volleyball,’ and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m just grateful that you guys are here.’”

Smith said she’s excited for the season and looks forward to seeing her runners continue to show up.

“There’s definitely a group of kids here who are very committed to show up,” Smith said. “That’s appreciated, from a coach’s perspective.”