John Green sped past his teammates during the West Forsyth wrestling team’s 20-minute conditioning runs at practice, and so here was the first clue for the freshman athlete searching for a place to belong. He could run, and run for a while. He couldn’t, however, wrestle, and there was the next clue.
"I’d get pinned in like three seconds," Green said.
The last clue Green needed came during spring season of track and field. Through all the sports he had ever tried – through baseball, football, soccer and more – he knew he could run. But he got hooked on the friendships with the other runners – the random conversations over miles and miles of running, the team dinners, reaching for physical accomplishments together.
Green loved it, but he didn’t know it would turn into this – in just two years, the junior has transformed into one of the county and state’s top distance runners, a legitimate threat to win the Region 6-AAAAAA individual title this Saturday at Chattahoochee Pointe Park and make further noise at the state meet on Nov. 8 in Carrollton.
A year ago, Green’s first on the cross country team, he was a solid contributor for West. He consistently ran mid-17 minute times, PR-ed at 16:55.10, finished 10th at region and came in 41st at state, the best finish of any Forsyth boys runner.
This year, Green hoped to use another summer of mileage and conditioning to take the next step.
"It’s kind of like building a pyramid," Green said. "You’ve got to have a good base during the summer. If you don’t get a good 2-3 months of summer training in, then what you do during the season doesn’t matter."
Green returned to the start of the season with faster times by more than a minute, a development even he didn’t expect. There’s sophisticated biology to explain how Green could use the same summer program but suddenly run faster, he just doesn’t comprehend it yet.
"Just another year to grow," Green said, "another year to get some more miles under my belt. It’s a process, just another step in the process."
It turned out to be a big step. This season Green has won The Coach Benson Double Dip Invitational in 16:43, won the Lambert River Run in 15:59, finished third in two other races and fourth in another. His worst finish, an eighth-place showing at the Peachtree Ridge/Walton Stage Races to start the season, provided him with some lessons on strategy.
"I let the pack get away and didn’t finish very well," Green said. "I learned that pretty quickly."
The goals for Green entering this season were concrete yet ambitious.
He wanted to run a sub-16:00 race (He’s done it twice).
He wanted to win the Region 6-AAAAAA title ("I feel like I’ve put myself in a pretty good position," Green said).
He wanted to finish in the top 5 at state ("I feel like I’m on track," he said).
Green added: "It’s really cool now when you have a chance to reach those goals you had at the beginning of the [season]."