The Lady Greyhounds finish in Albany was a rousing success, and it was four to five years in the making, according to coach Butch Climmons.
“This actually started back four to five years ago, when we had Athena Carpenter and Andrea Vahoua come in as ninth-graders,” Climmons said. “We made a point that year to keep them at a (junior varsity) level that first year to give them some success.
“Then, we had a couple other girls come into the program, so we kind of had an idea we’d be in the hunt this year. Then, we had a couple of other kids come into the program for the first time that kind of completed our program. So, we kind of saw this coming. It didn’t surprise us.”
It was the buildup of talented athletes that spring-boarded Pope to its runner-up finish, and Climmons as the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Climmons said. “I think our team had a fantastic year. I was not expecting the award at all. We went into the season focused on accomplishing certain things at certain meets, and we accomplished most of the things. We came up short at state, but I was pleasantly surprised by this honor.”
It took a well-rounded team of athletes to move Pope from eighth place at last year’s state meet to its second-place showing this season. With Carpenter specializing in the hurdles and Vahoua in the throwing events, the Lady Greyhounds steadily added athletes to the roster and trained them to become solid contributors.
Sophomore Ashley Kehoe proved her worth in the distance events, while freshmen Hope Glenn and Hayley Cohen added depth in the sprints and throws, respectively. Junior Kierra Henry came over from the basketball team to help out in the jumping events, while other athletes, such as Charlotte Kinzler, Jessie Sexton, Courtney Telfort, Kara Vining and Mya Wilson also played roles.
The all-around contributions also helped the Lady Greyhounds to a second-place showing at the county meet.
In the end, Pope fell one point shy of tying Miller Grove for the Class AAAAA team title, and two points from the taking the title outright.
Climmons often thinks about how things could have turned out differently.
“Oh, yes. I definitely look back on it,” he said. “I looked at a lot of different scenarios. There’s several things that could have changed the outcome of the meet, but it is what it is. We had a couple of girls that did things that we didn’t expect that put us in the position we were in. Then, we had a couple things that didn’t go our way. So, it’s something I’ve definitely gone back to look at, but it was still a great season.”
Climmons credited Pope’s all-around ability to the level of teaching given out by his staff, which includes assistants who specialize in the various disciplines of track and field.
“That enables us to maximize what we can do with the kids,” he said.
With the influx of talent and continued teaching, Climmons hopes the Lady Greyhounds will continue to be a force in the state.
“What many people don’t know is that the two years prior to (winning our first region championship), we were runners-up in another region by only a couple of points, so we were always in the hunt,” he said. “We’re going to continue to be in the hunt. We know we have a well-balanced program, and then, when you get those special kids that can put you over the top, those are the special things we look forward to.”