The Banks County Cross Country program has had a long-standing tradition of producing top runners and record breakers. This season has been no exception, especially for runners Buck Ledford and Allesandra Olivares. Both runners have continued to produce run times that have given Banks County numerous winners and top place finishes.
Junior Buck Ledford is no stranger to the winner's circle, as he just finished his last meet in the first place. Ledford has produced the second fastest time recorded in Banks County history, placed first at the first meet of the season, and placed sixth in the state as a freshman.
Anyone that watches Ledford compete can see his dedication to the sport and fellow runners, including those not on his team. Ledford is not just a leader on the team. He is often seen helping others runners at the finish line, offering encouragement and a pat on the back.
Ledford credits his success to his personal relationship with Christ. Ledford states that during the COVID crisis, he was able to draw upon the motto of "when life gets tough, keep running, and always run to Jesus" because he is the one that gives him strength. Ledford stated that running helps him manage stress levels, especially when he gets discouraged. He believes that energy has helped him gain better run times and to stay focused.
Ledford keeps a journal of his run times, which show growth. He also credits Coach Foster to his success.
"Coach Foster gives me suggestions on how I should start the race and develop a pace that I can continue. He provides everyone different workouts that are tailored for each type of runner," said Ledford.
Ledford knows that the team has some challenges, such as having inexperience, but with time, he feels that the team will be contenders at state this year.
Ledford credits his teammates with their constant positive attitude because it helps him stay motivated. Ledford also wants to encourage anyone, even thoughs with limited running experience, to get out and run, "It is a great way to encourage mental health, and help anyone work through problems."
Another standout runner is junior Alessandra Olivares. Olivares has been a part of the cross country program for three years and has helped lead the girl's program into one of the state's top female programs.
Olivares has been a strong and consistent leader in the program by producing exceptional run times. Like Ledford, Olivares is considered to be a leader on the team. Although a quiet leader, she leads by example and sets the tone for the girls. She can often be seen with teammates before and after the race offering suggestions and encouragement.
Olivares shared that this season has been quite different compared to previous seasons, especially with less conditioning due to COVID restrictions.
"Mentally is tough, school is different, and we are all worried about what the future might hold, but it has helped me push myself to think positive," she states.
Olivares believes that Coach Foster and her team mates' positivity have been the key to its success.
"He (Coach Foster) always understands and knows how to help us," she said. "I had an injury, and he helped me work through it. It is a priviledge to learn from him."
Olivares also wants to encourage the younger female generation by stating: "You can be whatever you want, nothing comes easy, but if you work for it, you can become it."
Both Ledford and Olivares are proud of their team's success and believe that the team's potential has yet to be reached. With the help of their coach, families, and fans, they are confident that the cross country program will continue to be state record breakers, state contenders, and state champions. They would like to invite all Leopards to come to watch their team compete.