Sometimes that can be easier said than done. There were uncertainties going into the 2013 season after graduating six starters from last year’s team that won region and took second in the county meets.
All he had was one returning starter in Jack Henderson, who was injured during track season, and a bunch of unproven runners who were rising freshmen or already in the program.
Turns out that this crop of runners were in favor of Coleman’s practice itineraries.
This year’s Marietta boys won the Cobb County meet, something the Blue Devils weren’t able to do with more experienced runners, and they defended the Region 4AAAAAA crown.
Marietta finished fifth in the Class AAAAAA state meet this season, but the Blue Devils may have been able to at least match last year’s runner-up finish had sophomore upstart Khayvonn Benson not been injured.
After molding a group of inexperienced runners and having them exceed expectations, Coleman was named Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year.
“The kids buy into the work,” Coleman said. “From the beginning of the year, we told them what they needed to do and went out and executed. I told them just to be consistent, put in your miles and you’ll get better. They did the work needed to make us competitive. It’s all about consistency.”
Coleman said he individualizes workouts based on a runner’s competitive streak and endurance ability. Some would log in 20 miles a week and others would double that, even if they run at the same pace.
The alternative is having them train in a group of they struggle on their own, but the individual workout plan he put them on helped them to mature quickly.
“He knows us individually,” Henderson said of Coleman. “That helps us because he’s so specific with us.”
Coleman had an idea about the potential of his team in late September after the Blue Devils the Battle of Atlanta at the Nash Farm Battleground in Hampton.
And they did it without Henderson. Five of their seven runners all ran together and placed in the top 16 to beat second place Whitewater by 56 points.
“All the young kids had to run by themselves because they didn’t have a leader there,” Coleman said. “We knew at the end of that meet that they were going to be top 10 competitive.”
But it wasn’t until the county meet that he knew this team was going to be special. Prior to county, Coleman said he was still struggling to come up with the right lineup because of the youth.
The young Blue Devils overcame the favored Walton and Harrison teams in the meet by placing three runners, Henderson, Benson and freshman Ben Patterson, in the top 10, which left Coleman stunned after the meet.
Marietta would go on to defend region behind first-year runner Benson, who nearly broke the 16-minute mark and finished second individually.
But Benson suffered a stress fracture at the state meet and couldn’t finish the race. Still, Marietta thrived without him. Henderson took ninth (16 minutes, 44.35 seconds) and Patterson finished 20th (17:10.43).