Peachtree Ridge's Josh Brickell dominated the Class AAAAA state meet on his way to the state championship.
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. Josh Brickell is a really good cross country runner.
The Peachtree Ridge standout holds every major school record in cross country and track. He won four races this year, most notably the Class AAAAA state championship.
Now here’s the scary part. Brickell is just a sophomore. And he accomplished many of those feats this season while battling pneumonia. Imagine how good he’ll be when he’s a senior — and healthy.
“He’s a sophomore, yet he doesn’t run like a sophomore,” Peachtree Ridge coach Ron Clanton said. “He’s in a pretty steady state. There’s no highs and no lows. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion, a lot of nervousness before a race. He’s just real low key.”
Brickell won the state championship with a time of 15 minutes, 43 seconds, which was a personal record. He became the first sophomore to win the Class AAAAA boys state championship.
“I was a little awestruck when it happened,” Brickell said. “I knew I had a chance to win it, but outside of that I was kind of the underdog. When I was finally able to cross that line and no one was in front of me, it was exciting.”
Brickell won the title in dominating fashion, beating out heavy favorite Alec Klassen from Parkview. The senior was 18 seconds behind Brickell.
“When he went, no one went with him. The margin of victory is what shocked me. Nobody really pushed him the last half mile, he was basically by himself,” Clanton said. “In AAAAA, you don’t see someone run away with a race like that as handily as he did. You very rarely see a sophomore do it. That’s pretty hard to do.”
Brickell, who is ranked third in his class with a 4.0 GPA, showed a glimpse of his greatness at the Class AAAAA state track meet in the spring. As a freshman, he finished fifth in the 3,200-meter race.
“That showed me under pressure, I can still keep my head on my shoulders. It did give me confidence,” Brickell said.
Brickell’s biggest problem has been staying injury-free. He broke his arm prior to last year’s Region 7-AAAAA meet and still managed to finish 11th. He was 28th at the state meet last season and was the first freshman to cross the finish line despite running with his arm in a bandage.
“Nothing rattles this guy,” Clanton said.
Bad luck struck again when he missed three weeks early in the season, including the Gwinnett County meet, with pneumonia. In his first race back, he took fourth at the Bale-N-Trail in Florida. Brickell won four of his seven races this season, including the UGA Invitational, Wesleyan Invitational and the Region 7-AAAAA championship.
The Region 7 victory was big as Brickell had the same time as Klassen on the same course on the same day, though they ran in different races.
“It was an unknown going into the state meet. He came back from phenomena and it took him awhile to get back,” Clanton said. “He wasn’t 100 percent until probably the region meet. The region meet proved he was back in form when he won the region championship.”
With a state title under his belt, now it’s just a matter of how decorated will Brickell be by the time he’s a senior. He wants to win the 1,600 and 3,200 races in track this spring and lead his team to a state championship. For Clanton, it’s simply what he must do for Brickell.
“I think as a coach my job is to keep the kid healthy and happy,” Clanton said with a laugh. “Just get him to the starting line.”