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Sitton steps down as Lions' coach

Tomy Sitton has been so heavily involved with cross county and track and field in the state of Georgia that eventually it all became too much for him.

The Peachtree Ridge girls cross country and track and field coach resigned earlier this month after 26 years as a teacher and coach.

"I would like to take a step back," Sitton said. "It's been kind of hard. I'd like to do less organizing and more coaching."

In addition to handling his teaching and coaching duties at Peachtree Ridge, Sitton also had a hand in several other projects. He helped coordinate the Atlanta Track Club's All-Metro banquet, the Georgia Cross Country and Track and Field Hall of Fame, the gatfxc.com Web site, the Georgia Track and Field clinic, the track sectional, was the announcer at the state cross country meet and helped organize several local meets, including the county and region championships.

"It will be tough without him around," North Gwinnett girls cross country coach Mark Karen said. "It will take four or five people to do what he was doing."

Shannon Hays will take over the girls cross country program at Peachtree Ridge. The University of Kentucky grad has a strong running background and qualified for the 2009 Boston Marathon.

"She's been with our program both as a track and field coach and girls cross country, so it's a natural progression," Peachtree Ridge athletic director Bill Holleman said.

Sitton started Peachtree Ridge's running program from scratch. In his seven years, he has gradually built the Lions into one of the state's top teams. They were 11th at last year's state meet after placing 12th the year before and 13th in 2007.

"The program is in good hands with the coaches that are there. They will do a good job," Sitton said.

Sitton is one of the most successful cross country coaches in Gwinnett history. He led Brookwood to nine county championships, including a record seven in a row in the early 90s. Brookwood won state championships from 1989-91 and he was named coach of the year seven times by the coach's association. The Greater Atlanta Christian grad also mentored coaches from some of the top teams in the state like North's Karen, Collins Hill's Andrew Hudson and Brookwood's Chris Carter.

"I think he's meant a tremendous amount to cross country," Hudson said. "It's a tremendous loss in cross country and track and field in the state of Georgia.'

Sitton, 51, hasn't ruled out a return to coaching. He plans to take some time off to be with his mother and father, who have battled illnesses lately.

"I'm looking for a different opportunity and we'll see what else is out there," Sitton said. "I'm trying to figure out the next step. I just want to take a break. I will miss the coaches."