Ronnie Glanton has put his fiery sideline speeches to rest for the time being. After all, now he's got to pace himself for the long haul.
The veteran football coach is changing lanes in 2018 upon taking over the Carrollton High School cross country programs, a transition that has proven to be a pleasant undertaking heading into this weekend's season-opening event.
"It's been really good. We've got a great group of girls and boys. It's a little different than football. You don't have to push and pull so hard. They know what is expected out of them. You go out and give them the workout and they just go to it," Glanton said.
Both the girls' and boys' teams began summer workouts back in June and are now gearing up for the first competition of the fall with the Mercy Invitational set for Saturday in Fayetteville at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School.
The 1.05-mile loop course features mostly wooded trails, finishing with a 300-meter stretch onto the stadium track. The girls' race is slated for 8 a.m., followed by the boys at 8:30 a.m.
"We started in June and it's amazing how many of these kids just keep coming and keep coming. They actually get out their and run and see what they can do," Glanton said. "They understand that we don't have to be great today. We want to be great at region and state."
Leading the charge for the Lady Trojans is veteran performer Elizabeth Aguilera, who qualified for the USATF Junior Olympic Nationals this summer with the Carrollton Summer Track program under the direction of Larry Turner, while Audrey Best, Maddy Rakestraw, Samantha Peavey, Annika Trotter and freshmen Kaydee Martin and Georgia Noori have also been bright spots early in the season.
"We've got a lot of girls pushing each other," Glanton said. "They work very hard. I'm excited to see what they do."
For the Trojans, Joshua Beam is the graybeard of the bunch, while move-in Collin Jones from Illinois has also been a welcome addition to the program.
"Joshua Beam has been around for a long time. Collin Jones has really helped our program. He's in the top two or three runners that I've got," Glanton said. "Then we've got Austin Rosencrance, Noah Samples, John Tumi and Austin Griffies, but he's been hurting a little bit. The boys have a chance of doing really well. We're just trying to get them there slowly. You can't do it too fast."
Carrollton will host three meets this season, the first being the Carrollton Orthopaedic Invitational on Sept. 8, followed by the Carroll County Championships in October and then the grand finale — the GHSA Cross Country State Championships — on Saturday, Nov. 3.
But for now, it's all about getting their feet under them and enjoying a little competition this weekend before getting into peak mode down the road.
"We're just ready to get out and run against somebody else for a change," Glanton said.