Clarkston cross country hopes to establish a winning culture

Clarkston Boys Team (2)It has been awhile since an athletic team from Clarkston High School has won a state championship.

The school has four team championships— two in boys’ basketball (1940, 1964) and two in girls’ track (1989, 1990). The school also has individual state champions in wrestling, including recent champion Terrance Gaddy (2008, 2009). However, the school has not been one of DeKalb County’s premiere schools in sports.

The boys’ cross country team is hoping to change that perception as they continue to win this season. The cross country team has won four meets so far, including three consecutive county meets.

The team is coming off a productive 2013 season that included its first county championship, ending Lakeside’s 18-year winning streak. Clarkston coach Wesley Etienne said winning that title and ending Lakeside’s streak gave the team “positive momentum.”

“Lakeside has been holding that title for 18 years, and they’ve been doing a great job,” Etienne said. “I know many teams have tried to dethrone them, and we were successful in doing that. That just gave us a good platform to stand on.”

The Clarkston Angoras cross country team has continued to improve since the 2012 season. The team finished in the top 19 in state in 2012, and finished runner up last year.

“That put us on the map saying that we are competitive, and we have good athletes,” Etienne said. “We just have to continue to believe that.”

Etienne believes Clarkston has good student athletes as well. He said the team is working to bring a winning attitude to the school with its recent success.

“We got some good student athletes at this school, and we’re trying to make sure that we do our part,” he said. “In DeKalb County we have athletes spread out all over place that are academically successful and also athletically. We try to instill in our kids that if you do a great job in the classroom it will overflow into your work ethic for competing also.”

Clarkston is led by a group of young runners and one senior. Last year’s team had a number of seniors who were captains, and “made the transition very smooth for us to compete on a high level last year,” Etienne said. Although the team is trying to find new leadership, Etienne said the school has a freshmen class that is hungry and ready to win.

“We’re blessed to have a good freshman class all around throughout the school,” he said. “It’s affecting our volleyball [team], our softball [team] and our cross country team, and also building a good program for our football team. The freshmen class has done a great job coming in, and they are ready to work. They want to make a name for themselves. They got fire, and they keep motivating our juniors and sophomores on how to excel.

Clarkston Abbas Abbkar“It’s good to have [junior] Abbas [Abbkr] and Bineyam [Tumbo]—a sophomore, and also having Gidey [Sahlu], a senior, and [sophomore] Suheib [Mohamed],” Etienne added. “These four came back from last year’s team, and they’rworking with these younger guys and getting them going. They’re my new leaders, but they’re still young. They’re trying to lead us in the right direction.”

Clarkston had seven runners that placed in state last season, and Etienne is hoping to have more runners qualify this season.

“Our plan is to have our whole team qualify for state,” he said. “We know that as long as we keep on working the possibility is very much there for us. All we need to do is keep working and believing in ourselves, and take it one week at a time.”

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