GMC Prep cross country is off and running for the 2020 season.
The varsity girls are looking to improve upon last year’s third-place finish at the GHSA Class A-Public state competition. The boys, meanwhile, finished seventh overall in 2019, ending their streak of three consecutive state titles.
Both successful programs are under new leadership this season as Andrew Grodecki has been handed the reins from former head coach Debbie Barsby. Barsby will now coach GMC Prep tennis in the spring so she can watch her daughter play varsity softball this fall. This year marks Grodecki’s second teaching at GMC Prep. Prior to his current positions he was teaching and coaching cross country at nearby Putnam County High School where the program showed marked improvement over the years he was there. A former collegiate cross country runner himself, Grodecki’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport will definitely be an asset to GMC Prep during his tenure. He is married to Jamie Grodecki, who is the head softball coach for Georgia College. While the Bulldogs’ head coach is now different, the assistant remains the same as Rob Sherwood is staying on the staff.
Where most fall athletics schedules were in question due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport that encourages athletes to distance themselves from their competitors was never seriously in doubt. Grodecki had his kids on campus for summer workouts to prepare them for another round of running in Georgia’s late summer heat.
GMC Prep cross country has attended two meets so far this year, and some runners picked up right where they left off at the state meet last November. For the girls, junior Jada Warren won the varsity girls 5K race at Stratford Academy last week, beating her next closest competition by 42 seconds. That same day she was named Georgia MileSplit’s Girls Runner of the Week among Class A-Public student-athletes. That title was based on her third-place finish the previous week at Wilcox County’s Patriot Pride race. Warren’s eighth-place finish at the state meet last year helped the GMC Prep girls get that third-place trophy and herself an All-State recognition. The new Running Lady Dogs’ head coach hopes to see more of the same as the 2020 season moves forward.
“She has worked so hard, and is just an awesome person and runner,” Grodecki said of the junior. “We’re looking for big things from Jada this year.”
Behind Warren is sophomore Kamryn Willis, who finished 18th at state last season and 25th at the Stratford race, and Maria Knapp who took 27th at Stratford.
The GMC Prep boys are being led out on the course this season by seniors Ethan Tolentino and Colin McCabe, two soccer standouts who don’t just use cross country to keep in shape for the spring. Each has his own high finishes both at state and regular season competitions, and it looks like that will continue in ’20. Tolentino took ninth at the Stratford race while his classmate McCabe was less than 20 seconds behind at 11th. Sophomore Christian Black (20th), freshman Brian Sherwood (24th) and freshman Owen McCabe (29th) helped the Bulldogs finish third at last week’s Stratford race. While the senior leadership is certainly a plus for the GMC Prep boys, those young runners’ times will definitely be needed to propel the program back to the top of the podium at state later this season.
GMC cross country is scheduled to host two regular season meets this year, starting with next Thursday’s (Sept. 10) Small School Showcase. Grodecki said home meets will look quite different this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of there being a mass start for each race, each school will take to the course five minutes apart and times will be adjusted upon completion to determine where everyone finished.
GMC Prep’s second home meet is set for Sept. 24, and the school will also host the area competition, where everyone hopes to qualify for state, Oct. 29. The state meet is scheduled for Nov. 7 in Carrollton.