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Rams host State Farm Opener
Marks first time Newton program organizes home cross country meet
JG NHS
Joana Godinez placed fourth in the varsity girls 5,000-meter run in the State Farm Opener on Aug. 14. - photo by Special to The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. – There’s an old saying that goes: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Recently, though, the Newton cross country team realized it also takes a village to make history. 

On Saturday, Aug. 14, Newton High School hosted the State Farm Opener – the first home meet in school history. 

According to head coach Stephen Foster; there were a lot of contributions made to carry out the vision. 

“It took a community effort to make it happen,” Foster said. “Everything happened quickly and it was a long time coming.”  

The first contribution came from Shametria Dixon of State Farm, who ended up becoming the event’s title sponsor. 

Then, half of the course is on private property owned by Cathy and Denny Dobbs. Foster went to the Dobbs’ home to ask if his team could run to which the Dobbs’ agreed. The only stipulation was that the Rams made arrangements to clear the fallen trees on the course. 

Marcus Pollard from the Newton College and Career Academy volunteered to clear the trees a week before the meet took place. 

Once all of that was completed, Newton’s focus turned to getting a timer for the meet to be official.  Foster secured the Perfect Timing Group, which is the same company who times the state track and field meets each year. 

An added bonus came with Chris Kaufam from BSN Sports providing breakfast for the runners and coaches. 

All of the groundwork took approximately five months to accomplish. Foster recognized that everything that was done made the day even more extraordinary. 

“[The meet] was phenomenal,” Foster said. “It’s something we did from the ground up and it was something we’ve never done here before. And there’s also the pride seeing the kids take ownership of helping be a part of this.”

Be that as it may, the Rams turned their attention to the competition on the day of the event. 

In a field of six teams, the Rams finished third but, from the Rams’ perspective, they placed first by just hosting the meet. 

“[Winning the meet] wasn’t even in the cards,” Foster said. “It was our ability to get together and put the meet on. Doing that was our own win.” 

Newton also had a few runners place in the meet. 

Kenton George and Joana Godinez were the top finishers for the Rams. 

George, who is a junior, placed second overall in varsity boys 5000 meter posting a 20:06:29 finish. For George, he wanted to best represent his team in its inaugural meet. 

“I tried to do my best so I could place at our race,” George said. 

In the varsity girls 5000 meter, senior runner Joana Godinez placed fourth overall with a 27:32.10 finish. 

As one of the seniors on the team, Godinez recognized the significance hosting a meet has on the growth of the overall program at Newton High School. 

“My freshman year, we had a small team,” Godinez said. “This year’s team is big compared to then, but I feel like we’re going to get more people out here now.” 

Hosting a meet at Newton High School has been a goal of Foster’s since he first arrived five years ago. There were a lot of bumps in the road but, thanks to the village of supporters helping, the inaugural State Farm Opener was indeed a success. So much so that there are already plans to host the meet again next year. 

While Aug. 14, 2021, will go down as a historic day for the Rams’ cross country team, the most memorable moment came after all the races were complete. 

“A lot of our players just looked at one another and said, ‘Guys, we did it,’” Foster recalled. “It went off like it was supposed to. At the end, it was kind of surreal that we actually did it.”