“I can’t really say it’s any of my doing,” said Ingham, after he earned the award in two straight seasons. “I’ve got a great coaching staff. You’ve got everybody at Cherokee High School where all the coaches work together. Seeing my name pop up time and time again shows what is happening at the school at large.”
The Cherokee boys won the Cherokee County Track and Field Championships team title over Woodstock this year with 167 points compared to the Wolverines 142. Winning the team title required athletes placing high in a variety of events.
For example, Cherokee had throwers place second, third and fourth in the discus. Andrew Harris won the long jump and 200 meter dash and placed second in the 100 meter dash, while the Warriors placed two teams inside the top five in both the 400 relay and 1600 relay. Ryan Worsham and Aaron Wright placed first and second in the 400 dash. Other point scorers included Lazion West (high jump), Taylor Scarbrough (1,600 run, 3,200 run) and Anderson Nations (pole vault).
The story was similar in the Region 5AAAAAA meet where the Warriors finished fourth of eight teams and saw Lazion West (high jump), Aaron Wight (400 dash) and the 1600 relay team win titles.
Two boys, Andrew Harris (long jump) and Travis Head (shot put) went on to qualify for the Class AAAAAA state meet.
Ingham said that success is breeding success at Cherokee. After the Warriors started increasing their presence on the county, region and even state track stage, more athletes wanted to be involved.
“Once you get started with someone like Andrew Harris or Brandon Hrouda or even Lazion West, you show some success to the younger kids, people want to be a part of it. It has everything to do with expectation and showing the kids what is possible.”
Because of the family atmosphere that exists at Cherokee, coaches aren’t selfish about their athletes. Coaches in one sport will often recognize a skill that can be used in another sport and tell the other coach about it.
“You’ve got Josh Shaw, Stephen Jackson, Matt Ely, Roger Kvam, I’ve even had Rob Williams come up to me and say ‘hey, this kid was in gym class and ran a great mile. Didn’t even look like he was working hard’. I talked to the kid the next day and now we have a new distance runner for next year. That’s really all it is. We foster it among ourselves. If we see something in a kid, we let the other coaches know.”
The Cherokee track and field program is littered with athletes that also participate in another sport. Among them are Michael Bean, Obie Brannon, Asher Davis, Jordan Freeman, Jeremiah Gill, Andrew Harris, Travis Head, Brandon Hrouda, Jake Jones, Taylor Scarbrough, Dwayne Tiller and Aaron Wright.
Jennifer Waldrup, who has been an assistant track coach working specifically with distance runners, will take over the cross country program next year. Ingham believes that will translate to more success for both the cross country team and the track team in distance events, where it has lagged.
“One of the major jobs of the head coach is to put other people in the position to help us be successful,” Ingham said. “I don’t have to be the smartest guy, I just have to have the smartest people around me.”
Ingham regards Adam Johnson as the top throwing coach in northwest Georgia, but no program has tapped him for a head coaching position.
“You look at where his throwers rank year to year consistently and someone like him, I’m just trying to keep him happy on staff,” Ingham said. “We jell as a coaching staff. We started as a staff of three and now we are up to five. That’s one reason that I think Cherokee High School is different than any other high school you could go to.”
Next year the Warriors will graduate about a third of their roster — many of whom are currently at the top in their event. But for the time being, Ingham said the future is bright.
“My old coach said you can determine the quality of a team by how many 400 runners you have and right now we are stacked,” Ingham said. “We just need one or two pure speed guys and we will be set.”