The Twitter bio for Cartersville senior Parker Breedlove reads, “Running fast is fun … I’m assuming.”
Given that Breedlove recently signed to compete in cross country at Reinhardt University, the bio is clearly a tongue-in-cheek statement. However, based on how much Breedlove has improved in his high school career, it wouldn’t have been much of a joke when he started running for the Canes.
“I’m mainly going to remember just how I started out here as a 23:45 [in the] 5k,” Breedlove said. “With my teammates’ help and my coaches’ help, we’ve whittled that down to a 17:35.
“I’m just going to look back on my time here with a big smile on my face.”
While the numbers are a little different, the same impressive cutting of time applies to Breedlove’s Cartersville teammate Riley Dabbs, who signed moments after Breedlove to run for Truett McConnell.
“To have one is exciting,” Cartersville cross country coach David Matherne said of the dual signing. “To have two is even more exciting, especially when they have come so far to get to this point. Both of these guys, when they were younger, were not scratching varsity. They were freshmen [team members], and they were JV. They were pretty far back in JV, honestly.
“To see them at this moment, signing a scholarship, I know it’s a dream come true for them. For a coach, it’s really a dream come true.”
Even with all of the growth Breedlove and Dabbs have shown during their time with Cartersville, the duo still weren’t the fastest members of the Canes team. But Matherne said they were two of the leaders for a group that wound up sixth in the Class 4A state meet.
“You expect senior leadership, so that’s what we got from these two,” Matherne said. “We got good times, and we got good orchestration. They saw what needed to be done, like another coach. You’ve got to have that.”
Based on the success of this past season’s team and the number of underclassmen on the squad, Breedlove hopes to see Cartersville accomplish even greater things in the coming years.
“I think it’s unbelievable what we’re doing right now,” he said. “I don’t think anyone outside of this team has any clue as to what these younger guys are going to accomplish next year and the years after that. We have so many talented sophomores and freshmen. I really think they can win a state championship in the next few years if they work hard and believe in themselves.”
To win that state title, the Canes will need other leaders to step up, because Breedlove and Dabbs will be busy acclimating themselves to new sets of teammates.
“I loved everything about it,” Breedlove said of Reinhardt. “It was really just love at first sight. I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. It’s close to home. They have a great program. They have great coaches. Really it was the only school I even had an interest in looking at.”
Dabbs said Truett McConnell had a “homey” feel, and he loved how much he could experience nature at the Cleveland, Georgia-based campus. He actually planned to attend the school before he even considered running for the Bears.
“I knew I didn’t want it to end after high school,” Dabbs said of his cross country career. “My mom said to just email the coach and see how it goes. I emailed him; we started talking; and I got his number. We started texting, and he offered me a scholarship.”
Running on a college cross country team was something Breedlove had been aiming for since his sophomore year. Meanwhile, Dabbs hadn’t really considered competing at the next level until his senior season.
There were several reasons the Cartersville pair, who also compete for the school’s track and field team, managed to reach this goal. Matherne and his assistant coaches should get some of the credit, but the coach pointed to the assistance the students received in all areas as pushing them to this remarkable achievement.
“I’m just happy we’re at a school with such a good support unit,” Matherne said. “A great team, a great community that supports us [and] a lot of great parents. It makes it a little bit easier for kids to accomplish this.”