Podium Spots The Goal for Commerce Cross Country

When legendary cross country coach Mark Hale elected to retire from Commerce, it wasn’t long before a familiar name popped up. Thomas Pee, coming over from Athens Academy, was very familiar with the region/area and in his own right a seasoned coach in the sport. He jumped at the opportunity.

“I’ve been a cross country coach since 1990…last year was the first year in a long time that I didn’t have a team,” says Pee. “I’ve known coach Hale for years. As soon as I got hired, he came to me and said ‘well you know I’m retiring, so they’re probably going to ask you to do it.’ I was excited about the opportunity to take this up.”

One of the things Pee liked about Commerce was they already had the right culture and foundation established, which makes things easier on him.

“These guys know how to win,” states Pee. “The boys have been on two championship teams….the girls, they know what it takes. I told them, ‘It’s a new year, new coach, but you’re the same guys…you’re the champs.’ I’m hoping we can build on that.”

For the boys, they’ll have to move on without the program’s most decorated runner in Brandon Martin, who graduated a 2-time sate champion individually in cross country. However, the expectation is the same – to finish on the podium.

“If all of our guys come back healthy, we still have a really good team,” claims Pee. “With the boys that we have returning, we should be a podium contender.”

On the girls’ side, he has junior Paden Bell to lean on, as the 2-time top-five finisher (2019 state runner-up) returns to lead the Lady Tigers.

“It’s really nice to know that you have a top-10 finisher (Bell), an 11th-place finisher, and a new freshman who’s gotten some experience,” says Pee. “The girls kept the top runners. Obviously getting on the podium again [is the goal].”

Bell recently won a pair of state titles in track and field this past spring, which has given her a boost of confidence.

“Knowing that I can go that speed and run that distance, it gives me a little bit of a boost,” adds Bell.

For Bell, the goals are high.

“I want to win region again,” says Bell. “State championship would be nice, but I really just want to PR at state. I haven’t really had a good state meet yet, so I really want to have a good time there.”

The Tigers have won back-to-back state titles while the Lady Tigers have been in the top 3 each of the last 2 seasons. 2021 should see both wind up where they belong – on that podium.

Digital Copy of Interview – Paden Bell

Digital Copy of Interview – Paden Bell

$10.00

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