Running Down Under
story by jonathan branch
Local runners return from Down Under
Cross-country running is quite a misnomer. No, participants do not actually across a country, but in the case of two local teenagers, the sport can lead to traveling across continents.
Recently, Morgan County High School students Gladdie Kriemann and Zach Stone spent a week in Australia representing Georgia on the National Southeast Conference Cross Country team.
The duo flew to Dallas to join two other Georgians and the rest of the American participants in the Down Under Sports cross country program before flying to Brisbane, Australia.
Kriemann and Stone first ran in the Down Under All-American 5K at Pizzey Park in Miami, Queensland, but a constant rain caused sloppy, muddy conditions on the grassy park course.
“The first race was only Americans, so only those in the Down Under Sports program ran,” said Kriemann. “It was raining pretty bad, muddy and cold because it’s winter there.”
Kriemann ran a 19:03 to finish 34th out of the 72 racers. Stone was hampered by an injury suffered prior to the trip—Iliotibial Band Syndrome, a common knee ailment that results in inflammation and soreness—and finished 49th in the 5K.
“The first race would’ve been the best if it hadn’t been raining,” said Stone.
Later in the week, they raced in the International 5K Challenge as part of Gold Coast Marathon. Another misnomer, the 5K Challenge was actually 5.7 kilometers long. Kriemann finished in 52nd place, while Stone finished 70th out of the 3,586 particpants.
“The second race was probably the highlight. It was a really awesome race,” said Kriemann, who said the weather was “pretty much” perfect for the second race. “It was like the Peachtree [Road] Race in Atlanta.”
A special patriotic moment occurred as racers approached the start of the International 5K Challenge, with Team USA congregating at the front of the pack.
“Everyone was wearing bike jerseys with big ‘U-S-A’ letters across the front, and we were all in the very, very front with no Australians,” said Stone. “So at this Australian event, there was a big group of Americans chanting ‘U-S-A’ and singing the national anthem.”
Since the race was longer than five kilometers, Kriemann calculated his 5K time using a formula. His estimated 18:20 mark would have ousted his previous personal record of 18:54.
“I was trying to beat 18:54,” said Kriemann. “I wasn’t too far off after the first race, but in the second race, I did well.”
Despite what he considered disappointing results in the races, Stone did not let his performance affect his overall view of the trip.
“Once I knew that I was hurt and wouldn’t be able to run very well, I was like ‘I’m in Australia,’” said Stone.
When the two were not racing, they were busy sightseeing, meeting friends and practicing. The two were able to hold a koala bear at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef and learn the dialects and accents of the locals.
Both athletes were grateful for the opportunity to go, which would not have been possible without raising the $4,500 cost per athlete.
“Thanks to everyone who helped us out this year by donating money,” said Stone. “And a big thanks to my parents. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Kriemann and Stone said they would welcome the opportunity to partake in the program again next summer.
“Just being there was really cool,” said Kriemann, who along with Stone rated their first trip Down Under a ‘10’ on a scale of one to 10.
“I’d live there,” said Stone, who looks forward to a return trip in the near future. “I’m saving money already.”
Printed in the July 12, 2012 edition