One of Baldwin County’s most dominant athletes made her collegiate destination official last week.
John Milledge Academy distance runner Emery Ryan is taking her talents to the University of North Georgia to join the college’s cross country and track teams.
“Nobody gets here easy,” JMA cross country head coach Bo Kilby reminded those attending the Friday signing ceremony. “It’s not easy to get here to this signing table. It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work.”
Dedication and hard work are two things Ryan has definitely given throughout her high school career whether it be on the cross country course in the fall or the track in the spring. Her commitment has helped her produce great race results, and now it has her positioned to continue doing the sport she loves at the next level.
“This means a lot because I’ve put a lot of work into running over the years,” said Ryan. “Knowing that it’s all actually paid off feels good.”
Ryan has basically been a standout ever since she stepped onto the cross country course, but really came into her own after winning her first race as a sophomore. She ended her high school career as a four-time All-Region cross country runner, an honor that goes to the top seven finishers at the region meet; a two-time individual region champion finishing the big region race first overall; a three-time All-State selection, a recognition that goes to the top 10 runners at state; and the four-time Baldwin County Cross Country champion in the county meet held locally each year.
“I’m excited for her,” Kilby said after Ryan had put pen to paper. “She’s probably one of the hardest working runners we’ve ever had on the team. To see someone who loves running that much have the opportunity to play in college is awesome.”
Ryan’s best year on the cross country course came as a junior when she won 12 out of 14 races she entered. Her senior year did not quite go as scripted as injuries kept her down through much of the regular season. She bounced back to shine in the postseason though to finish fourth overall at the 2019 GISA AAA state meet.
Her final two years may have been her best as far as results, but her high school head coach reached back to her sophomore year in giving his favorite memory. Entering the state meet Ryan had set the goal of earning her first All-State recognition, and was right at the cusp entering the race’s final stretch.
“I remember her coming around the last corner and she was in 10th place,” Kilby recalled. “It was a sprint to the end. When she crossed the finish line I was in tears, her mom and dad were in tears. Emery was passed out on the ground. It was awesome.”
In a race featuring 89 runners Ryan finished 10th by three seconds to obtain that first All-State award. She would go on to improve her time at state by 2 1/2 minutes her senior year when she took fourth overall and her final All-State plaque.
Although all the scholastic athletic awards and recognitions are special, Ryan says it was over the summer when she would attend running camps out in Utah or North Carolina that she knew competing at college would be a possibility. These camps were attended by top runners who really wanted to be there, and there was Ryan consistently finishing at or near the top of the pack. The search for a college began and after visiting North Georgia she found her home.
“The atmosphere was so nice and I could tell that everyone on the team wanted to be there and they all cared,” Ryan said. “I just felt like UNG was right for me.”