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Athlete of the Week: Rucker runs through the pain
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Honor Roll

Hunter Anglin, Gainesville: Earned a win on the mound, tossing a complete game one-hitter in a region title-clinching win over Creekview, and finished the week with three hits, a home run and five RBIs at the plate.

Ralston Cash, Lakeview Academy: Had four hits with two home runs and five RBIs last week.

Hayden Cummins, White County: Went 4-for-8 with a home run last week.

Dalton Everett, Union County: Went 3-for-4 with a grand slam in a win Wednesday. Hit a three-run home run with four RBIs in two wins Friday.

Max Everitt, West Hall: Had six hits, four RBIs and five runs scored while pitching a complete game with 13 strikeouts last week.

Will Maddox, Gainesville: Had six hits, three home runs and 11 RBIs last week.

K.J. McAllister, Gainesville: Went 6-for-10 with five RBIs, three runs scored and two stolen bases last week.  

Dalton Munday, Lakeview Academy: Had five hits with a home run and two RBIs last week.

Logan Pethel, Johnson: Went 5-for-7 with two home runs, two doubles, eight RBIs and six runs scored last week.

Taylor Simpson, Lakeview Academy: Threw a complete game with ten strikeouts to earn a win on the mound and went seven hits with five RBIs last week.  

Jonathan Whitehead, Lumpkin County: Had four hits, two home runs and five RBIs in a win Monday.

Fletcher Whiting, Johnson: Hit two home runs with five RBIs in a win Wednesday.

Josh Kles, Jefferson: Won the shot put and discus in the Region 8-AA meet Friday.

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Flowery Branch girls track team will be sending eight athletes to compete in nine events at the girls state track meet on May 6-8 in Albany. One of those athletes, junior Erika Rucker, is no stranger to competing in big events.

And winning them.

In 2009, Rucker competed in the Junior Olympics where she placed first in the 400-meter dash. In the Region 7-AAAchampionship meet last season, Rucker took home the region title in the 100- and 200-meter dash and placed third in the state meet in the 200.

That big-stage experience was on display last week at West Forsyth where Rucker won two more region titles, in the 200- and 400-meter, and qualified for state in two more: the 400 and 4 x 400-meter relay.  

For her efforts, Rucker is The Times Athlete of the Week.

What might be considered more impressive than simply winning the two races is that Rucker suffered two injuries to her hamstring just a week before the region meet.

Despite the injuries, and the resulting time off to let her hamstring recover, Rucker won her two primary events and led the Lady Falcons to a second-place finish in the region.

With the state meet upcoming, Rucker says she isn’t too worried about her injury.

“It keeps feeling better from week to week,” she said, “so I think I’ll be fine by then.”

Even if she is able to compete at her highest level, Rucker isn’t assuming any certain result at state.

“I (just) hope I do well enough to get top three,” she said.

That humility is something that Flowery Branch’s track coach Jimmy Sorrells feels is one of Rucker’s best attributes.

“You don’t get an athlete very often that is obviously very skilled athletically, has tremendous work drive and a great sense of humility,” he said.

Rucker’s commitment to hard work is something she feels is her greatest improvement this season from last season.

“Last year, I didn’t recognize that I was improving as well as I was,” she said. “So this year, I’ve been really trying to focus on doing better.”

A commitment to self-improvement is something that not every high school athlete is capable of making and shows that Rucker has sense of personal character, Sorrells said.

“Her most resounding quality is her character. To me, she completes the fullness of an athlete,” Sorrells said. “A lot of coaches are blessed with talented athletes but don’t seem to put it all together in the classroom ... or with the right attitude. But she has all the components. I mean, she’s a complete joy to coach.”

Having all the right components is something any athlete must have to compete at the collegiate level, and Rucker seems to be heading along that path.

When asked if she is going to go to college and continue her career on the track, Rucker smiled and said simply, “I hope so.”
That hope will most likely not be in vain. In fact, schools are already showing interest.

“The University of Alabama has sent letters, but they can’t really talk to (me) yet (due to NCAA regulations),” she said.

On Friday, Rucker will continue her pursuit of another strong finish at state as she puts her recently injured hamstring to the test in a grueling three hours of racing.

To begin, Rucker will compete in the second heat of the 400-meter relay at 5 p.m. Then she will run in the first heat of the 400-meter dash at 5:20 p.m. Next, Rucker will run in the first heat of the 200-meter dash at 5:40 p.m. and will finish off the day in the first heat of the 1,600-meter relay at 8:30 p.m.

Regional events