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Cross Country provides new opportunity
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Updated: 10/09/2013 08:00:01AM

Cross Country provides new opportunity

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Larry Jewett


Front row, from left, Aundrea Coleman, Bailey Galloway, Brooke Duke, Cody Smith, Joseph McNally. Back row, from left, Ashton Owen, Shanika Williams, Coach Ashley Daughtry.

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As the new school year began, students and staff at Bartow Middle School faced plenty of unknowns. There were the usual changes, a few that were not usual and the uncertainty of how programs were going to be affected by budgets or participation requirements.

Bartow Middle School had become involved in intra-scholastic athletics last year. The Polk County School Board had taken the step to steward organized activity and made it optional for the schools to participate. Bartow Middle School seized that opportunity with several programs that allowed students to enhance their educational experience with activities like athletics. To the relief of many, those activities are continuing in the 2013-14 school year.

Girls basketball, currently underway and a topic of future discussion, is an example of a returning program. A new opportunity has arrived with the creation of middle school cross country.

“We had a meeting at the Jim Miles Center to work out everything we needed to get done as far as schedules and other activity,” said BMS cross country coach Ashley Daughtry. “There were quite a few schools represented.”

As could be expected with any first year program, the number of participants is smaller than could be accommodated. In this case, it’s more about quality of the experience than the quantity involved. For Daughtry, an ESE Math teacher, though, the opportunity to participate was clear.

“I like running and I’m glad to see that there are other people who want to do it,” she said. “I wanted to be involved with the sports programs at Bartow Middle and didn’t really want to do soccer again, so I’m really happy to have this chance.”

There were pre-season tryouts and it understandably took a little education to get the interest up. Cross country is a sport that doesn’t have the notoriety of football, basketball and some of the others. The program could draw from very little experience, relying solely on those who simply like to run.

The team wasted little time in getting into high quality competition, competing in the middle school portion of the recent Jim Ryun event at Holloway Park with 280 students competing in girls and boys cross country. Bartow’s squad is a co-ed team.

The team has also competed in an event at Westwood Middle school and has their next meet tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 10) at Discovery Academy in Lake Alfred. The final event is the Oct. 19 running of the county meet at Holloway Park. The teams run the 3K distance.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the effort this team is showing this year in their meets and their practices,” said Daughtry. This is brand new to so many of them and they are really trying to do well. They have bonded well. Some of the team members are sixth graders, so they are not just new to the sport and the team, but new to the school as well. They might not have ever gotten to know each other if it hadn’t been for this activity. We have a good group that works hard to succeed.”

Team members for 2013-14 include Aundrea Coleman, Brooke Duke, Bailey Galloway, Joseph McNally, Ashton Owen, Alexandria Renfort, Cody Smith, Aaliyah Thomas, Brishonne Tolley and Shanika Williams.

Daughtry sent the team members on a run around the Bartow Memorial Stadium track, but soon was running stride for stride with different groups. These athletes don’t compete before huge crowds. They often run in the heat of the day. They don’t have cheerleaders. They make up for what they don’t have with what they do have … a desire to succeed, to represent the school and to represent themselves. It’s clear case where the results don’t reflect the positive that exists because every sports cliché falls short of describing real success. The students push on, learning life’s valuable lessons along the way.

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