When the Georgia High School Association restarted high school workouts last week, it gave Carrie Vandegriff her first official chance to meet with the White County High School cross country teams.
Vandegriff was named the head coach of the Warrior squads recently when Matt Dover stepped away from the program after serving as the head coach for the past two years. Vandegriff has been part of the program as an assistant coach and is excited about the upcoming season.
“We feel really good about Carrie,” WCHS athletic director Craig Turner said. “She's been active in the program as an assistant coach, and she has a daughter on the team, so cross country is a family thing, and she's a natural fit for the job.”
Vandegriff follows Dover and longtime head coach Sam Borg in the coaching tree, and is excited about continuing her work with the program.
“I've really benefited from the foundation built by two charismatic coaches (Borg and Dover) who fostered self discipline and a love of the sport,” Vandegriff said. “They deserve credit for building a fantastic program. It's been a crazy summer already. Last week was the first time we could be with the kids, but the kids have been running for a while.”
With coaches unable to be around the runners all spring, Vandegriff said it was up the student-athletes to work out on their own.
“There isn't a group of kids more self-motivated than runners, and we have a group of seniors that have taken the lead and organized workouts,” Vandegriff said. “The seniors have done so well getting everything done, I just didn't want to rock the boat. Our senior leaders like Sydner Nix, Leah Alexander, Josie Stover and Eamonn O'Bryant are so organized and they have orchestrated our workouts and it's been smooth sailing so far.”
Vandegriff is joined on the staff by longtime volunteer coach Tom O'Bryan, and WCHS soccer coach Megan Runkle will be part of the staff this fall.
“Tom is my go-to-guy. He does a great job of putting together the workouts. He's a big part of this program. Megan is going to be an assistant coach, and she's been out here for our workouts.”
With COVID -19 shutting down high school sports all spring, Vandegriff said the summer schedule for the the cross country team doesn't look a whole lot different from past years.
“For runners, it hasn't really changed a lot, other than getting a later start since we couldn't be with the kids until last week,” Vandegriff said. “Since this sport doesn't use a ball or special equipment, we're doing our normal stuff.”
Vandegriff said this summer's workouts look a little different than past seasons, as the runners are cutting down on the mileage, while adding some cross-training to the plan. The runners are currently working out five days a week.
“We are really focusing on keeping our athletes healthy,” Vandegriff said. “We've had several stress fractures the last couple of years, so we've dialed back the mileage a little and upped the intensity, and we are cross-training. We're fortunate that Truett McConnell allows us to use the swimming pool, so were are swimming there and we are mountain biking at Yonah Preserve.”
The Warrior runners plan to continue preparing for the upcoming season throughout the summer, with the season set to start in Aug. 15 at a meet in Pickens County.