At 20, Girma Mecheso is older and more mature than many college freshmen. Still, the transition to college running wasn't a breeze for the former Berkmar star.
His first few college cross country races at Auburn told him that.
"I was trying to go out fast like I did in high school, but it is a different world," said Mecheso, a state champion at Berkmar in 2006 as a junior. "I would go out fast and get tired by halfway (through the race). Now I go out and do my best. I try to look for a good time and try to win."
Mecheso did just that last weekend, winning the SEC men's cross country championship in Starkville, Miss., with an 8K course-record time of 23 minutes, 11.26 seconds, which also is the powerful conference's best time of the season.
It was Mecheso's first college victory and the Tigers' first individual SEC cross country champion since 1985. Auburn finished its highest as a team since the '85 season, placing second.
"I told (our top three guys) to take a shot at (first place) and Girma was there," Auburn cross country coach Peter Watson said. "It was a great team effort for Girma to win that race. He's a freshman that has learned a lot since his first race and I'm proud of him. He ran great."
Mecheso, ineligible to compete in Georgia High School Association races as a Berkmar senior because of his age, spent the 2007-2008 year away from a school team. But plenty of colleges liked his talent and his grades - he is majoring in pre-medicine - and Auburn is reaping the benefits of his ability.
"It is good at Auburn," Mecheso said. "It is similar to Georgia so that is good. We have a good place for training. I like it here."
The career-best time at SECs gives Mecheso high hopes for the NCAA South Regional on Nov. 15, which hopefully will be followed by a trip to nationals.
Smith among SoCon leaders
Central Gwinnett grad Bryce Smith has become a major force in the middle for Samford's football team, which is in its first season of play in the Southern Conference.
Smith leads his team with 69 tackles (50 solos), ranking fourth in the conference in tackles per game. The 6-foot-1, 249-pound sophomore also has six tackles for losses and ranks second in the SoCon with four interceptions.
Covington leads Georgia Southern
Chris Covington is enjoying a huge senior season at Georgia Southern, leading his team in tackles, tackles for losses and sacks from his linebacker position.
The Brookwood grad has made 84 tackles, good for third in the Southern Conference in tackles per game. He also ranks second in the league in tackles for losses (13) and sacks (6.5).
Meeks shines in exhibition win
Norcross grad Jodie Meeks, coming back from an injury-plagued 2007-2008 season, got off to a nice start this season in Kentucky's 111-53 exhibition win this week over Missouri-St. Louis.
Meeks scored 27 points and knocked down seven 3-pointers.
Peach Belt honors local players
Four Gwinnett Grads, including three first-teamers, were named to the All-Peach Belt Conference soccer teams this past week.
Columbus State teammates Stephanie Parrish, a forward who went to Grayson, and defender Sarah Hawkins, a defender who went to Parkview, each made the women's first team.
The men's first team included Collins Hill grad Johnny Lara, just the third player in Clayton State history to make the All-Peach Belt team for three seasons. Lara's teammate, Patrick Ahern, a junior defender from Duluth, made the second team.
Arthur, Maurer honored
South Carolina men's soccer players Sam Arthur and Jimmy Maurer were named to the CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III first team last week. Students must maintain a 3.3 GPA or better to be eligible for the team.
Arthur, a Greater Atlanta Christian grad, has 11 goals and three assists in 15 games this season. Maurer, a St. Pius grad and a Lawrenceville resident, has seven shutouts as the Gamecocks' goalkeeper.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to 770-339-8081.
SideBar: IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS
A quick look at where to watch former Gwinnett standouts in today's college football action:
Noon - Georgia Tech at North Carolina, WUPA
For Georgia Tech, Duluth's Tyler Davis (No. 86) is a kicker, Duluth's Jason Davis (No. 45) plays running back, Norcross' Luke Snider (No. 66) plays defensive line, South's Zach Krish (No. 74) is an offensive lineman, Norcross' Bryce Dykes (No. 16) plays quarterback and Buford's Chase Hudson (No. 63) is an offensive lineman.
Noon - Samford at Georgia Southern, CSS
For Samford, Duluth's Dante Williams (No. 7) plays quarterback, Peachtree Ridge's Cody Crowell (No. 55) plays defensive end, Peachtree Ridge's Erik Peterson (No. 88) plays defensive end and Central's Bryce Smith (No. 47) plays linebacker. For Georgia Southern, Brookwood's Chris Covington (No. 28) plays defensive back, GAC's Lee Chapple (No. 14) plays quarterback, GAC's Josh Barker (No. 76) plays offensive line, Buford's Garryon Taylor (No. 83) plays wide receiver, Norcross' Dion Dubose (No. 54) plays linebacker, Parkview's Matt Rucker (No. 56) plays linebacker, Grayson's Stephen Bolt (No. 75) plays offensive line and Central Gwinnett's Josh Aiken-Phillips (No. 97) plays defensive line.
Noon - Michigan at Minnesota, ESPN
Brookwood's David Pittman (No. 9) plays quarterback for Minnesota.
Noon - Ohio State at Northwestern, ESPN2
Peachtree Ridge's Cameron Heyward (No. 97) plays defensive line for Ohio State.
12:30 p.m. - Georgia at Kentucky, WATL
For UGA, GAC's Brannan Southerland (No. 36) plays fullback, Norcross' Fred Munzenmaier (No. 48) plays fullback, GAC's Caleb King (No. 4) plays running back, Brookwood's Rennie Curran (No. 35) plays linebacker, GAC's Christian Robinson (No. 45) plays linebacker and Peachtree Ridge's Drew Butler (No. 13) is a punter. For Kentucky, North's E.J. Adams (No. 17) plays wide receiver and North's Ross Bogue (No. 86) plays tight end.
1:30 p.m. - Iowa State at Colorado, Versus
Grayson's Conrad Obi (No. 93) plays defensive end for Colorado.
3 p.m. - The Citadel at Wofford, SportSouth
North Gwinnett's Tate Blenke (No. 29) plays defensive back and Collins Hill's Ryan Jones (No. 2) plays defensive back for The Citadel. GAC's Landon Bennett (No. 85) is a kicker, North Gwinnett's Eric Eberhardt (No. 98) plays defensive line, Buford's J.J. Miller (No. 63) plays offensive line and Dacula's Calvin Cantrell (No. 66) plays offensive line for Wofford.
3:30 p.m. - Alabama at LSU, CBS
Grayson's Lorenzo Washington (No. 97) plays defensive line, Norcross' Darius Hanks (No. 15) plays wide receiver and Norcross' Sam Snider (No. 45) plays wide receiver and punter for Alabama. GAC's T-Bob Hebert (No. 53) plays offensive line and Peachtree Ridge's Derrick Bryant (No. 36) plays cornerback for LSU.
3:30 p.m. - Clemson at Florida State, ABC
Parkview's Michael Palmer (No. 86) plays tight end and Brookwood's Dawson Zimmerman (No. 96) is a punter for Clemson.
3:30 p.m. - Stanford at Oregon, Fox Sports South
Buford's Justin Roper (No. 11) plays quarterback for Oregon.
3:30 p.m. - Western Kentucky at Troy, CSS
Meadowcreek's Mychal Patterson (No. 74) plays offensive line and Collins Hill's Bo Adebayo (No. 93) plays defensive line for Western Kentucky.
7 p.m. - Coastal Carolina at Gardner-Webb, SportSouth
Wesleyan's Chase Howe (No. 51) plays linebacker for Coastal Carolina. Collins Hill's Michael Hanna (No. 95) is a punter, North's David Montgomery (No. 1) plays running back and Collins Hill's Jordan Peyton (No. 5) plays wide receiver for Gardner-Webb.
8 p.m. - Florida at Vanderbilt, ESPN2
Buford's Omar Hunter (No. 99) plays defensive line and Buford's T.J. Pridemore (No. 45) plays fullback for Florida. Duluth's Kennard Reeves (No. 28) plays running back, Parkview's Greg Billinger (No. 56) plays defensive line, Collins Hill's T.J. Greenstone (No. 74) plays defensive line and Grayson's Tristan Strong (No. 24) plays linebacker for Vandy.
8 p.m. - Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, ABC
Central Gwinnett's Beau Johnson (No. 2) plays running back for Oklahoma State.