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2020 GIRLS XC RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Carmel Yonas, South Forsyth
Carmel Yonas
South Forsyth sophomore Carmel Yonas won the Class 7A state championships in November with a 18:48. Photo by Mitchell Martin

How does one stay motivated after winning a state championship?

South Forsyth sophomore Carmel Yonas need only look to her younger sister, Isabel Yonas.

Carmel, the Forsyth County News Runner of the Year captured the Class 7A title this season as a sophomore with a 18:48, her sister eight spots behind in ninth place.

"For a freshman, I'm still shocked that she did that," Carmel said. "I wasn't expecting, honestly, that she would get top 10. I thought maybe top 15 or somewhere there, but she crushed it. I've definitely got to watch out for her."

Carmel burst onto the scene last year, finishing 11th at the state meet in her first season with the War Eagles.

Funny enough, Carmel (19:53) was one second faster than her younger sister, Isabel (19:54), as a freshman.  

"Last season I did great, but my goal was to really try to win state this year," Carmel said. "That really pushed my goal for that, and my amazing team too. They were just so helpful."

Carmel Yonas
Yonas burst onto the scene last year, finishing 11th at the state meet in her first season with the War Eagles. Photo by Mitchell Martin

It's enough to keep Carmel motivated despite winning a state title so early in her high school career.

"Just remember that you can always do better, whether it's with place or time," Carmel said. "There's always somewhere you can improve in every aspect of running. Whether it's being a better teammate or making sure you're keeping up with the latest stats, like who's getting faster than you."

Carmel began running in sixth grade, but it wasn't until she ran with Great Strides in eighth grade that she realized her potential. 

Great Strides is a youth running program that is part of Gotta Run Kids, a local running club in Cumming and Johns Creek.

"That's when the coach actually told me that I had a lot of potential," she said. "I recognized it in middle school, but once I got on Great Strides, things just changed — the dynamic of how I was racing, how I was doing in practices. It really was an eye-opener that I could be pretty good."

South has produced seven of the past eight Forsyth County News Runners of the Year, including some elite company in Madelynne Cadeau, Kaylee DuPont and Savannah Carnahan. 

But Carmel was not intimidated when she entered South's program, and she quickly realized she could compete — and beat — some of the top runners in the area.

"When I first came in the expectations weren't really that high, just because we didn't know how I was going to do and how I was going to fit in," Carmel said. "I surprised everybody, mostly myself I'd have to say, because during the practices I'd definitely be up there running with the top girls. I knew that I could do it, but it didn't really show until the meets. The practices when I first came in, that was a big thing."