Lance Underwood has been a top local runner for years now…the only thing that kept him from getting this award the last couple of years was Dawson County’s Jacob Poston, who now runs collegiately. Underwood takes the award after a senior season that saw him finish runner-up in Region 7-AAA and place fifth at 3A state.
For the Union County Panther, Underwood’s 16:12 time at the region meet was just six seconds shy of his PR (16:06). The state meet proved a bit more difficult, but Underwood still finished with a 16:52 on a tougher course.
From the start of 2017, Underwood has found himself near the front of the pack consistently. He finished fourth in the season opener (14th Annual War Eagle Invite), and took the top spot in the next event (Valley River Mudder). The 16:06 PR came in the following meet, the Runners Fit Mountain Invitational. At the Fall Runaway at Riverside Military Academy, Underwood took fifth place prior to his second-place finish at the region meet. His state time was only 26 seconds behind the leader, as the top five was very crowded.
Underwood was chosen to then run in the USATF Georgia HS CC Meet of Champions after the state meet, and finished 24th among runners from all classifications, posting a 16:08, one of his best times ever.
Our panel of 18 voters, made up of media reporters/broadcasters, former BLITZ players, former coaches and a couple of fans, submitted their Heisman-style ballots for the four finalists for the award:
HISTORY OF CROSS COUNTRY RUNNER OF THE YEAR
Underwood is the first Union runner (either boy or girl) to take the award.
2017 – Lance Underwood – Union Co SR
2016 – Jacob Poston – Dawson Co SR
2015 – Jacob Poston – Dawson Co JR
2014 – Tyler Grimsley – Towns Co SO
2013 – Dylan Forrester – Dawson Co SR
2012 – Dylan Johnson – Hayesville SR
2011 – Dylan Johnson – Hayesville JR
2010 – Brian Elder – Habersham Central SR
2009 – Brian Elder – Habersham Central JR
LOOKING AHEAD – THE NEXT FAVORITE(S)
Underwood was the lone senior out of all four finalists this season, so the other three stand a good chance to make a run at the award next season – Cody Wood (Dawson), Griffin Stephens (Banks) and Guy Gober (Rabun). Dawson and Banks had other runners who could have been finalists this year as well, so look for those guys to “lead the pack.”