When Jimmy Sorrells began the Flowery Branch cross country program in 2002 he knew that one day he’d be able to win a state title. Six years later the Falcons proved him right.
After placing third twice in the Class AAA state meet, the Flowery Branch boys ran home with a first-place finish in this year’s race to win not only the program’s first state championship, but the first state title in any team sport at the high school.
"It’s been a progression," said Sorrells, who coincidentally came to Flowery Branch from Carrollton, the site of the state cross country meet.
"I’ve got a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this program, and I take a lot of pride in it because I’ve been the only coach and I wanted to take it to the highest level I possibly could."
Taking the Falcons to a state title earned Sorrells the All-Classification Coach of the Year Award by gatxfc.com, and now he has been named The Times 2008 Cross Country Coach of the Year.
From his first year of coaching the Falcons, Sorrells has experienced success.
The boys team won the region title in its first year of existence, and since then have won four region championships. The girls program, which Sorrells also coaches, has won four region titles, including this year.
But while the teams were having success at the region level, the Falcons were never able to claim that elusive state title.Until this year.
"It’s always been a goal, and to be honest I thought we’d get there quicker," Sorrells said of winning a state title. "But it took some time to find the right mix of kids; it’s never been a question of talent."
This year’s mixture consisted of Daniel Martinez, David Farist, Maurice Riden, Kenny Slavik and Jeffrey Velez, who all finished in the top 25 at the state meet to help give Flowery Branch the title. Their average time of 16 minutes, 45.23 seconds was five minutes faster than the average time of second place finisher, and region foe North Hall.
Sorrells knows that without his team’s commitment to the sport, which includes extensive running in the offseason, the Falcons would not have been able to win a championship.
"It’s not all coaches, trust me," he said.
"We have the right group of kids that have the ability to run and they are committed to doing what they need to do to run."
After seeing his team’s desire to win this year, Sorrells became aware of his team’s chances at establishing the program as one of the best in the state. With a solid regular season and a region title under its belt, Flowery Branch entered the state meet as the overwhelming favorite, and Sorrells felt that pressure.
"There was more pressure on me than there was on the kids," he said.
"The kids said it was no big deal and that they could do it, but I was worried about whether we were doing the right things."
He was also worried that his dream of making the state know about Flowery Branch wouldn’t come true.
"I wanted to help Flowery Branch get on the map," he said.
He did, and after arriving home with the school’s first team championship, the atmosphere at the school, specifically within the athletic department displayed more of a winning attitude.
"It’s been a mutual respect and I think it’s had a positive effect on the other programs in the school," said Sorrells, who received a congratulatory text message from Flowery Branch football coach Lee Shaw after winning the state title.
"I think some of the players think that if they (the cross country team) can do it, so can we."
Now that he’s got that first championship under his belt, Sorrells feels that his program will benefit the most from winning a title.
"I’d like to think that year in and year out we could put together the ability to perform at a high level," he said, noting that North Hall also has the capability of doing the same. "There’s a possibility that Flowery Branch could get to the point where we would be a contender every year.
"It wouldn’t be a guarantee," he added. "I know this is a rarity. I don’t expect to win a state championship every year."