Coach Miranda Murphey is hoping for a big season from her cross country girls' and boys' team at Thomson High School.
In fact, her goal along with that of team members is to capture the Region 3-AAA Championship.
The first-year coach believes such a goal is attainable.
"I really think we have the potential to do well in region competition and to come out on top when it's all over," said coach Murphey. "I want them to have a positive experience with this sport. I want it to be good for their bodies and minds."
She is so optimistic about her team doing well this season that they have all circled Nov. 7 on their calendars. They're hoping to find themselves in Carrollton, Ga., on that date for state competition.
"I really believe we'll be there," said coach Murphey during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror last Wednesday.
She described one reason why she feels her team is destined for big things this season is because of their dedication.
"Dedication really encompasses everything about this team," said coach Murphey. "This team has a lot of dedicated runners. They have a desire to do well all the time. I've seen that in our practices."
The Bulldogs' Cross Country Team got their first opportunity to prove themselves on Wednesday in their first meet of the season against the Washington-Wilkes Tigers in Washington. Results will be in next week's edition of The Mirror.
The Thomson team is anchored by Korey Austin, a senior, who recently was named team captain. The team also is aided by another talented runner in Jordan Ramos, also a senior.
"Both of those runners are very dedicated and other runners just seem to look up to them," said coach Murphey.
Austin, she said, "is a natural leader with lots of leadership qualities." Ramos, meanwhile, "is a real enthusiastic team member who enjoys offering advice to other team members," the coach said. Both players are seniors along with Aleseia Freeman.
Coach Murphey is no stranger to coaching cross country. Even though she has taught at Thomson High School for the past three years, she wasn't involved in coaching. Prior to coming to THS, though, the 1998 graduate of Hephzibah High School in South Augusta, taught at Evans High School one year where the Lady Knights went to the Class AAAA state meet. After graduating from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro in 2003, she served as cross country head coach at Metter High School in Chandler County. The coach is married to Phillip Murphey and lives in Appling.
Coach Murphey said she wants the best possible team she can put together, noting that includes having runners who are well-behaved in the classroom and make good grades, too.
Like the classroom setting, she believes if her cross country runners work together as a team, "then it will come together for them as individuals."
She, like her team, is deeply dedicated to doing the things necessary to be champions.
"I would be lying if I said I did not want to win every meet," said coach Murphey, who also teaches English and serves as a drama coach. "All coaches want to see their team do well in competition. However, at the end of the day, what is more important to me is what the students take from the sport. I am here to help them achieve whatever goals each individual has, whether it is staying fit, getting in shape for another sport or just making new friends. Beyond that, I want my team to work hard and work together. If we do that, winning will take care of itself."
The Thomson team consists of: Korey Austin, Jordan Ramos, Antwan Freeman, Chad Austin, Will Austin, Dontavious Williams, Qunesha Williams, Chris Connor, Matthew Conner, Zack Connor, Christian Powell, Austin Whitehouse, Justin Bettross, Josh Wright, Brandon Carlton, Ivy Clemente, Haleigh Gill, Cullen Wallace, Raven Hamilton, Dylan Taylor, Anne Schiffner, Fisher Yates, Bryce Prysbyz, Payne Powell, Hank Doupe', Sherdric Grant, Richard Wilburn, Bailey Tam and Antoine West.
"I've never seen a group that works any harder than this group does," said coach Murphey. "This team is unparalleled to any I've ever been around."