CLARKSTON, Ga. — Four months after winning a state title, the men’s cross country team at Clarkston High School slipped on their championship rings.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said sophomore Bineyam Tumbo.
The runners traded in running shoes and sweats for suits and ties during a special in-school ring ceremony on Wednesday.
It was a first-class celebration to cap off a cross-country season that started quietly last summer, when team had no sponsors or booster club and only enough money for a handful of invitational meets.
Like the community around them, most of the runners are refugees from Ethiopia, Kurdistan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, North Sudan.
With very little experience, they created a force.
On November 8th, the Clarkston men’s 5A cross country team became state champs.
“What we’re experiencing is a first for me,” said head coach Wesley Etienne. “The rings represent the fact that we’re number one and true to who we are.”
Right after the state meet, the team didn’t have enough money to buy championship rings, so Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry started a fundraiser online.
Donations totaling more than $6,000 poured in from across the country after 11Alive’s story on the underfunded underdogs became national news.
“It’s accomplishment,” Tumbo said. “It reminds us who we are.”
The Clarkston High School cross country team won the 2014 state championships.