See stars 'back when'
While being a sports writer I have met athletes from a variety of sports -- a few as professionals but most as high school -- I can now add Olympic athlete to my list of people I've met.
For the past six years Janet Cherobon-Bawcon dominated the Covington Fuzz Run. She set the women's record with a time of 17 minutes, 44 seconds before breaking the record in 2009 shattering the record by a minute. She was within a second of tying the record the following year.
Now she will represent our country in the 2012 Olympics in London running the 10,000-meter run. Janet qualified to run in the Olympics with a time of 32 minutes, 17.06 seconds. That, in anybody's book, is very impressive.
Her story is quite interesting. The 33-year-old Kenyan started running as a little girl, when she was discovered by 1988 gold medalist Peter Rono. She trained and ran hard to eventually earn a scholarship to Harding University in Arkansas. As a member of the Bison track team, Janet won three Division III championships.
She told me several times how she participated in the Fuzz Run just for fun. She would run a 5K in the morning before going to work or school. In order to stay in "running shape" she takes it easy and averages between 80-90 miles a week. When training for a big race, she increases that amount to 100-110 miles per week. Personally, running 80-90 miles a week would be my job. I couldn't imagine doing that and working at the same time. I guess that's why I'm in the shape I am.
Other amateur athletes that I've met before they became professionals include former Dodger and current Kansas City Royals closer Jonathan Broxton, Salem's Courtney Hurt and LPGA golfer Brittany Lincicome.
As a junior in high school, Broxton was already breaking 90 miles per hour with his fastball. I was waiting to talk to his coach after practice when I donned a helmet and a bat and had him throw one. I remember it just like it was yesterday. He stared at me standing on the plate ready to go yard. He got ready and went into his wind-up. The next thing I knew I heard the ball hit the backstop as he stood there with a smirk in his face. I put the helmet on the plate and went back into the dugout waiting for the coach.
I followed Brittany around The Oaks Course in 2004, I believe it was, when she was qualifying for the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. She set the course record for qualifying, and if I'm not mistaken she still holds it. I've also had the pleasure to meet future LPGA player Brooke Pancake (who graduated from Alabama and finished second among individuals at the NCAA championships), Texas golfer Haley Stephens and UGA golfer Emilie Burger.
Another player who will soon make her professional debut is former Salem basketball player Courtney Hurt. After playing for Virginia Commonwealth, Courtney was drafted by the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx.
Plus there are a lot of other talented local athletes which would not surprise me by making their living playing professionally. Some of those include former Heritage baseball player Tyler Austin (who is playing Class A ball for the Tampa Yankees), former Newton basketball player Derrick Henry and former Rockdale hoopster Kevin Ware, Newton graduate and current Appalachian State cornerback Demetrius McCray. This list doesn't include some of the outstanding the players I've seen from the visiting teams.
With high school sports beginning soon, I was thinking about how many more people have the opportunity to say "I remember when" just like I do. All one has to do is support the local high schools by attending sporting events. Attending high school games will not only give the school sports programs the support they desperately need, it is also a great way to see the potential stars of tomorrow.