Photo: Gadsden City High School senior Tanner Rice signs a cross country scholarship with Jacksonville State University last Wednesday (Nov. 10). (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
There are not many “firsts” remaining at Gadsden City, but earlier this week, Tanner Rice officially went where no Titan has gone before during the school’s 15-year history.
The GCHS senior signed with Jacksonville State University last Wednesday (Nov. 10), making him what is believed to be the first Gadsden City runner to sign a cross country scholarship.
“I put in a lot of hard work for this, and all the support I got from my family and coaches and teammates over the years really meant a lot and helped keep me going,” said Rice, who is considering majoring in nursing. “Since I only started running as a sophomore and most everyone else started as a seventh or eighth grader, I’ve always felt that I was a little bit behind. So to go as far as my dreams wanted me to go is a blessing, and I know that God was with me along the way.
“It’s nice to be the first. Hopefully there will be many after me, like Mithun Rameshkumar, because I’m sure that he’s going to break all of my records.”
Rice said that his decision two years ago to run nine or 10 miles on a consistent basis was the turning point in his running career.
“Mileage is a big part cross country, and I really didn’t understand that for a while. The more miles you put in, the better your time is going to be. That’s what you have to do to compete in D1.”
Rice was impressed by the JSU coaching staff, future teammates and facilities when he paid a visit.
“Everyone was nice to me when I was there, and they’re trying to build something big for the future. It’s mostly freshmen on the team right now, so it will be a process, but our goal is to be conference champions.”
An added attraction was the opportunity for Rice to run with 2021 Hokes Bluff graduate and JSU freshman Sam Green.
“I’ve knows Sam for a while, and that was a big turning point for me signing [with JSU],” said Rice. “Also, Jack Lowe (from Pell City) also signed, and he’s one of the best in the state.”
Rice, who finished 44th out of 179 runners at the Class 7A state cross country meet on November 6, broke the school 5K record earlier this season with a time of 16:31.66 at the Lake Guntersville Invitational.
“That always been a dream of mine since I’ve been here,” he said. “There was a lot of emotions after I crossed that finish line with me and my dad hugging and crying. Hopefully there will be more moments like that during track season if I can get some more records.”
“This was my first year coaching cross country, so I hadn’t known Tanner for that long,” said GCHS cross country coach Corbin Holland. “But it didn’t take me long to realized that he’s very talented and a hard worker who shows up every day at practice and gets the guys ready to go. Tanner being the first to sign from here for cross country is something to be proud of. Me and [assistant coach Michael] Nelson and the other members of the team can’t say enough of how proud we are for Tanner and his accomplishments.”