Tomy Sitton, 46, is in his third year as a track and cross country coach at Peachtree Ridge High School. The Greater Atlanta Christian graduate is the most successful cross country coach in the county, having led Brookwood to eight state titles and six runner-up finishes during his tenure in Snellville.
In this latest installment of "Getting to know...," the former three-time state champion talks with staff writer Corey Clark on a variety of topics, ranging from his love for running to his most embarrassing moment to his future goals.
CC: How did you get into running in the first place? Have you always been a runner?
TS: Ever since the eighth grade. I ran at GAC and my ninth-grade year I finished second at state in the 800. And that was the only coach that ever chewed me out - he told me I should've been the state champion. So I decided then that if at all possible, not to let that happen again. And I had the Gwinnett County record for a long time. Some guy at Parkview broke it by like two thousandths of a second. But it hasn't been broken much over the last 27 years, and I still hold four or five records at GAC.
CC: Did you play any other sports in high school?
TS: I played basketball for three years, but I quit to concentrate on track and cross country.
CC: Was that a hard decision?
TS: No, no. I was very disciplined and determined to concentrate on
CC: So what makes it your favorite sport?
TS: I think because I was successful at it so early. Also, I just enjoy the camaraderie of the friends I have developed over the years. And I love coaching. And that's one of the reasons I take on so much every year, I'm trying everything I can to promote the sport.
CC: OK, as a sportswriter I have to ask you a question - what's the deal with the 8 a.m. start times? Can't we get those pushed back to a more manageable hour?
TS: (laughs) Well with cross country, we're kind of stuck. This year we had very little fall. We were fortunate to have good weather at the region meet, but the state meet was very, very hot. Some of the teams and individuals have problems when its 77 degrees in November. It's not a very pleasant
CC: I understand you have bit of a trip coming up, where are you going and why?
TS: I'm going to Japan. I leave (today). I'm heading up the U.S. contingent of eight men and eight women (in the Chiba Ekiden competition), and it's some of the top runners in the United States. There's going to be a men's coach and a women's coach and I will be overseeing the U.S. team ... I'm very fortunate my principal has allowed me to go on this because I'll miss a little bit of school.
CC: What's your most embarrassing moment?
TS: Oh, I've had a bunch of them. Probably at this banquet I was at. I had to introduce 90-something runners, and I kept saying "predominantly." I didn't even think about it until it was over, but the kids were making fun of it. I kept just saying the word "predominantly." And in my law class, I just found out I say "basically" all the time. And I didn't realize it until they all started making fun of me.
CC: Favorite movie?
TS: "The Matrix." The first one.
CC: Not the last two?
TS: No, I didn't think they were as good. I didn't like the ending of the third one, I would've liked to write the ending.
CC: What was your first car?
TS: A Volkswagen bug. 1976. It broke down all the time. It actually broke down during my junior-senior prom. And my date, her sister and her sister's date had to come pick me up at a gas
CC: Do you still get a chance to run a lot?
TS: I like running with the kids, that's one of my favorite things to do after races. I like to cool down with the girls. It gives me an opportunity to see how the race went and see how they feel. And if they didn't run well, it gives me an opportunity to tell them I care about them no matter how they ran.
CC: Who's the best runner ever to come through Gwinnett County?
TS: I have to say Courtney Champion (from Collins Hill). And I would say Marny Westphal as well. She still holds the record in the mile, and I was always real impressed with her.
CC: How long do you plan on being a coach? Any retirement plans?
TS: Some day I want to be able to coach with one of my buddies, and be able to get into a situation where I can coach and still be part time. And I want to be an athletic director someday. That's one of my goals. I want to get my specialist degree next year and then be an AD somewhere down the road. And I really enjoy that aspect of coaching and promoting the sport.