In just two years as the coach of the West Hall High cross country team, Sam Borg has turned his boys team into a contender in the region and state.
What he does during the summer, however, might be his biggest accomplishment.
"Waking up at 7 a.m. every morning in the summer is not something high school kids do," Borg said. "It’s not something anyone does. ... We’ve worked really, really hard. I attribute a lot of the success to the summer running program."
Because of the success of his summer program and of his team during the season, Borg has been named The Times 2007 Cross Country Coach of the Year.
Borg asked his runners to run 500 miles during the summer, which they did, mostly running at Gainesville State College.
"We tried to get the distance down in the summer and get a good base," he said. "They came into the season ready to go."
After a successful 2007 summer program, the Spartans battled all season with rival Flowery Branch for the top spot in the region and finished fourth in the Class AAA state meet this year.
"It was really special," Borg said. "There was a lot of hard work and it really paid off. Finishing fourth at state was a huge goal for us. It was amazing that we were able to accomplish that goal."
The Spartans finished 13th at state the year before, Borg’s first season as coach, and didn’t compete at state the year before that. Before becoming a Spartan, however, Borg wore the green of a North Hall Trojan.
Borg ran cross country and played basketball at North Hall during his high school days and started coaching there after graduation.
"Everything I know about cross country, I learned at North Hall," Borg said.
When his former basketball coach Greg Williams took the athletics director at West Hall, he took Borg with him. Borg took on the cross country job, but he admits that his sport of choice is basketball. He coaches the boys junior varsity basketball team at West Hall.
Even as a high school student, Borg used cross country mainly to get in shape for basketball season. But the more he ran, the more his appreciation for the sport grew.
"Basketball is my first love," he said. "That’s why I came here. But I also love cross country. Cross country is a great sport and I have a lot of fun with it."
One of the aspects of his job as cross country coach that Borg enjoys most is the relationship he develops with his runners.
He tries to run with his athletes as much as he can during practice, admitting that he usually can’t keep up with the lead pack for very long.
"Sometimes I ride my bike so I can stay with them," he said.
Luckily, junior Andy Martin and senior Zack Loggins, West Hall’s top two runners, act as assistant coaches when Borg’s not around.
"They are always out there urging everyone to keep going and be on time," he said.
Because he was once a runner also, and he is not too far removed from high school (Borg is 25), he has a closer connection with his runners than a lot of coaches might.
"The relationships I have with the kids really helps," Borg said. "Their goals are my goals. I want a (personal record) just as bad as they want a (personal record)."
What Borg wants more than fast times and championships is to see his runners succeed once they sprint past his influence.
"Getting as many runners to college is a big goal of mine," he said. "One of my goals for the program is to turn boys into men."