Runner Profiles by Bob Slowpants


Sarah Wishnietsky - A Military Brat on the Run 

Sarah Wishnietsky was born of Air Force parents at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.  Sarah’s mother retained her maiden name when she married so Sarah and her younger sister, Rebecca, were both given their mother’s last name.  Their mother hopes that one day the Wishnietsky name will continue down to her future grandchildren.   

Sarah and StevenTypical of military parents, Sarah left Mississippi after the first month of her life relocating to respectively to Massachusetts, Hawaii, Virginia, Arizona, and Alabama.  Sarah was “shy” and required some time to forge friendships, so her sister was her only long term friend during childhood.  When she did form friendships, her parents would move.  Sarah’s nomadic life ended when her mother retired as a Lt. Colonel in Montgomery, Alabama.  Sarah attended High School at Montgomery Academy where she played varsity softball, sang in the school choir, acted in school plays and was on the competitive math team.  Sarah excelled in foreign language study and spent time in France in a student exchange program between her sophomore and junior years.

After graduation Sarah attended and graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). While Sarah played the piano in high school as a hobby, she was relegated to the xylophone and vibraphone in the front ensemble of the university marching band.  Sarah graduated in 2007 with a double major in Math and Biology and a minor in Chemistry.  While at UAB Sarah went on medical mission trips to Belize and Ecuador.  She also availed herself to ecology courses in Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands.  This early entry into the world of travel led Sarah to visit to date more than forty states and fifteen foreign countries.    

Graduation led to a diagnosis of severe scoliosis.  Her vertebra was fused with her entire spinal column with metal rods inserted on both sides of the spine.  During an extended recovery, Sarah discontinued her hobbies and activities she had developed in college.  Her muscles grew weak from disuse so she attended cardio classes to recover her muscle tone.  Lifting weights did not appeal to Sarah but running did.  Sarah ran casually for a few years before discovering that Georgia had multiple running series.

Sarah and CherylIn January 2012 Sarah found the Black Bag Race Series/Clover Glove Series race, the Jaycees January Jog.  She learned about the series and began to look for races that awarded points for participating.  The more races she attended, the more fun she had.  What she really loved was that “she saw familiar faces at each race”.  After almost a year, she feels like some of the friends she has made on the race series are “some of the closest friends she has ever had”.   They “encourage each other, sympathize, and offer to help when someone is going through difficulties”.  Cheryl Cook, in particular, has become a good friend and is attending the Dopey Challenge with Sarah at Walt Disney World in January.  Her favorite races are the Bainbridge Half marathon and the Twelve Days of Christmas in July.   

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.  Look for the profile on 2013 Black Bag Race Series Champion, Lauren Freeman and on 4-H’s Jocelyn Davis.


Ricky Hayes - Building up the Points

Ricky Hayes was born in Gainesville, GA.  His family relocated from Hall County to Lumpkin County when Ricky complained about Gainesville at age two.  Dahlonega was agreeable with Ricky as he has never left except to build houses and for an occasional (every weekend) race.  He graduated from Lumpkin County High and worked at a local hatchery during high school which kept him from participating in sports.  After graduation Ricky became the hatchery manager over chickens that produced over 30,000 eggs a week.  The eggs were shipped via air out of Atlanta with some going international through Miami.  Ricky burned out frequently working seven days a week and decided that this job was for the birds.  He entered the industrial revolution of North Georgia working for five years at Torrington Bearings.  Ricky ran a machine that chopped wire into roller bearings.  This became just as boring as the job for the birds.

Ricky had a passion for painting and remodeling and dreamed of starting his own business.  The dream was “to build houses and manage my own money”.   A local banker took a chance on Ricky in 1990 when he built him a spec (not under contract and not presold) house.  His homes became known for their quality craftsmanship and were delivered at “a great price”.  Ricky’s son joined him fifteen years ago forming a team that, to date, has build over five hundred single family homes  in Dawson, Forsyth, Lumpkin, Habersham and Hall counties across North Georgia.  They provide quality homes so that is what they named the company, Quality Homes.  Ricky and his son have developed nine sub divisions during their tenure together.  He has never advertised as all his clients are “word of mouth” referrals.  His clientele base is retirees seeking value and rustic homes in the North Georgia Mountains.  Ricky soon learned that the general population was not increasing and jobs in North Georgia were shrinking.  The only new blood of potential home buyers was old worn out retirees from other states that were potential competition for the senior members of the running community.  

Not all times have been good in the home building business.  The 2008-2009 housing slump caught Ricky with nine spec houses built and over a hundred unsold building lots.  Unlike many of his competitors who were less conservative, Ricky weathered this slump and currently has three homes under construction but still is the proud owner of over eighty unsold building lots.  At the peak of the pre housing slump era, Ricky had as many as ten homes under construction at one time.  The industry is recovering but is a long way from being as robust as it once was.  Ricky’s cousin, southern charmer author Ronda Rich, has a book currently being published titled “There’s a Better Day A-Comin” .  It tells the stories of people she has known that have overcome great adversity.  Ronda has a chapter devoted to Ricky.

Ricky began to run four years ago and did so consistently until he accidently cut his leg with a chain saw. Fearing that he would be unable to run again, he doggedly began to walk and finally run again. Don McClellan and I encountered Ricky at the Black Bag Race Series event, the Dawson Dash Young Life 5K, two years ago.  We found him later that same day at another BBRS race in Jefferson, the Speed Read 5K. Realizing we had met a mentally unstable person who was a borderline potential Black Bag Race Series multi race participant, we encouraged him as did his friend Lauren Freeman.  Ricky ran fifty two races in 2012 and to date has run one hundred and eight y races in 2013, currently being third overall in male Black Bag Series points to Lauren Freeman and Roger Keel.  His best 5K time is 21:40 and best 10.4K time is 51:20.   

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.  Look for the profile on Sara Wishnietsky and Ricky’s friend Lauren Freeman, and later on 4-H’s Jocelyn Davis.


Belinda Moon - Multi Sport Long Tenured Athlete

Belinda was born in Augusta, Georgia and moved to Appling, Georgia when she was age six.  Her father worked construction and step mom was a housekeeper.   Summers were spent camping at nearby Clark Hill Lake.  Belinda and her parents would stay at their rustic lake campsite (no electricity) for weeks with occasional trips home for supplies.  As a youngster, Belinda loved climbing trees and collecting bugs but now she still loves climbing trees but collects rocks.  The family relocated to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina just before her junior year in high school.  Belinda graduated from North Myrtle Beach High in 1983. She was not involved in school sports but wanted to be a cheerleader. Belinda’s inability to do a cartwheel precluded her from being selected for the cheer squad.   After graduation Belinda returned to Augusta for a few months, thereafter soon moving to Chicago, Illinois to live with her mother.

Belinda and her mother moved back to Athens, Georgia in 1985 and she has resided in the Athens-Watkinsville area since.  She found employment with DuPont and currently works for Invista (formerly DuPont) in Planning/Scheduling with twenty-six year tenure.  She started her athletic apprenticeship after initial employment by going to a gym with friends after work for aerobics.  After a few months, Belinda and her roommate evolved their exercise routine into distance biking.  Belinda started taking courses at Akers Computerized Learning Center in order to advance at work but found she succeeded more socially as she met her future husband Paul whom she married in 1990. Belinda started running in 1992 by training and participating in a Duathlon at Jekyll Island.  She was ten weeks pregnant by race day and was relegated to the role of a pouting spectator.  After the birth of son Justin she began to run regularly with the goal of shedding the weight acquired during pregnancy.  Her first 5K was the 1995 Colbert Canna. Disappointed at not placing and frustrated at the speed of others in her age group, she pushed herself a little harder and took advice from new running friends.  Her friend Tony mentored and pushed her from two miles up to five miles on weeknights and thus success at races.

Her first marathon was in 1999 at McDonough with her first and only marathon in 2000 at Tybee Island. Accomplishments to date are nine half marathons, one marathon, two sprint triathlons, three duathlons, a one hundred century bike ride, four fifty mile charity bike rides, two metric century rides (sixty-four miles),  and a lot of 5,8, and 10K races.  Belinda is currently ranked in both the Run and See Georgia and Black Bag Race Series in the 45-49 female age group and has been so for years.  A special sprint triathlon was at Callaway Gardens a few years ago where Mark and Nancy Kelly were married after the event.  Belinda observed that she “has traveled to many races with my awesome friends over the years. We are all so spread out in different towns, but that was a fun way to meet up and socialize and get some running in.”  Belinda did the Thrill in the Hills Half Marathon and plans on repeating the event in 2014.  It rained so hard prior to the 2013 race that Belinda felt she was running in a creek for the entire course.  Training for trail runs has resulted in a few cuts and bruises over the years.  Her favorite race was her first Peachtree.  

Son Justin, now twenty, begin running at age twelve but has not done so consistently in his teenage years.  Recently on a weekday run at Veterans Park with son Justin he caught up with her at the two mile mark and ran the last three miles of her training run with her.  Belinda describes this as “a mother’s dream! “Her weekly fitness routine is Yoga two days a week, running at least three days, and taking Friday off with a few bike ride thrown in at random.             

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.  Watch for articles on Ricky Hayes and Sarah Wishnietsky.


Troy Garland - Running from Cancer

Troy was born in Milledgeville, GA, the elder of two children born to Brenda and Tommy Garland. His brother Brendan presently resides in the North Georgia Mountains.  He attended John Milledge Academy from kindergarten through the twelfth grade, graduating in 1989. Troy participated in basketball, baseball, and track in middle school and high school.  Unlike Joel Chandler Harris, Troy opted to stay in Milledgeville and continue his education at Georgia College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Information Systems/Communications while working full time as Assistant Manager for the  Sherwin-Williams Company.  Troy was active in Kappa Alpha Order at Georgia College and served as chapter treasurer for several years.

Graduation led to placement with Hanson Aggregates, a firm with mining operations in the continental United States and Europe.  Troy started as a quality control technician at the firm’s Sparta, GA location, progressing to the positions of Area Supervisor of Quality Control and Pit Forman.  Troy continued his post graduate education in the evenings.  He accepted a position with the Coca-Cola Company in 2001 as a Programmer Analyst in the Atlanta area.  When his position was outsourced, Troy returned to Milledgeville to be employed by the Unimin Corporation at their Kaolin mining and processing facility in their McIntyre, GA facility as a shift supervisor.  Troy has persevered and is now the plant superintendent at that location.  

Troy has always led an active life playing tennis and golf in college as well as intramural basketball, softball, and flag football.  He continues to enjoy hunting and fishing mostly on his family’s land in Hancock and Washington counties.  He bought his first motorcycle in 2001; a used Honda Shadow.  After owning several bikes, he now possesses a stable which includes a Harley-Davidson Softail, a Kawasaki KLR (dual sport) and a few dirt bikes.  Troy rides his Harley to Daytona Beach every March for Bike week.  When not running, he enjoys riding his bikes in the North Georgia Mountains with his brother and friends.   He also finds time to serve as a Deacon at Darien Baptist Church in Linton, GA. 

Troy suffered a setback in late 2005 when at the age of thirty-four he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  A minor sinus infection led to the discovery of the cancer.  Fortunately five months of chemotherapy and one month of radiation at the Georgia Cancer Specialist section of the Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville knocked out the disease.  After seven and half years, Troy is still cancer free.  In 2011 Troy had been steadily gaining weight after recovering from his fight against cancer.  When the scales tipped two hundred and forty pounds, Troy decided to reverse course.  Weight lifting and treadmill running were his initial efforts.

In November 2011 Troy completed the Big Dam 5K in Milledgeville and began to participate in local area races every other weekend.  Running in the Clover Glove Legging It for Lincoln at Rock Eagle in 2012 changed his view of running and led him to kick the treadmill in favor of the outdoors. The Clover Glove Race Series he found was a fun close knit group of runners.  The Twelve days of Christmas series in July 2012 was his first venture in distance beyond a 5K.  It was also his introduction to points racing.  He has found that the Clover Glove, Black Bag, and Run and See Georgia Grand Prix series have been a fun motivational way to keep running exciting.  The other runners he has met have been “a true blessing”. Troy has found the series participants to be a “motivating and caring group”.     

In early 2012 Troy borrowed a bicycle and joined the Georgia College Wellness Center to learn how to swim correctly.  He competed in the Old Capital Sprint Triathlon in May 2012. Triathlon cross training has provided a different component to his level of fitness.  Troy completed his first half marathon at the Athens Half Marathon in the fall of 2012. Later in the fall he participated in the Peachtree City 25K.  He also completed a Tough Mudder event in Tampa, Florida and several Warrior Dash Mud Runs.  Troy comfortably leads the Black Bag Race Series 40-44 age group in 2013 with 747 points, and The Clover Glover Race Series age group with 551 points.  Troy’s goal in 2014 is to complete his first marathon and Ironman.       

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.  Watch for the profiles on Belinda Moon and on Ricky Hayes.


Cooking with Cheryl

Cheryl Cook was born in Boston, Mass and grew up as an Army brat enduring her father’s thirty-one year active and reserve military career.  Her father retired at the rank of Colonel and in civilian life the family continued to relocate to facilitate construction of book publishing plants in Pennsylvania and Vermont and later developing newspaper chains in the Carolinas and Georgia.  Summers were spent on various military bases where her type A father continued his reserve service as an instructor for the Army Infantry School, Army Artillery School and for the Army Command and General Staff College.  Her mother was a stay at home mom, wherever that happened to be, until Cheryl and her sibling sister left for college.  Cheryl’s mother then pursued a successful career as an award winning advertising manager for Community Newspapers, the same employer that Cheryl’s father was working for.   

Cheryl did not become active in athletics until her senior year in high school when she developed a knack for playing defense on the girls’ basketball team.  She continued playing basketball at Brevard College in her freshman year.  She later attended the University of Tennessee.  Cheryl’s first career was in advertising/public relations with the Oak Ridge Group in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  Her son Chad was born in Oak Ridge in 1982.

Following a divorce, Cheryl moved to Clayton, Georgia to be closer to her parents.  She worked with an affiliate newspaper in nearby Highlands, North Carolina where she earned Special Publications Advertising Director of the Year recognition.  Tiring of balancing being on the road and a single mom, Cheryl pursued a career as a Medical Technologist returning to school acquiring a degree in Health Science Administration from the University of Phoenix.  She completed internships in a three state area.  Graduation followed with stints at Oconee Memorial in Seneca, South Carolina and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  Cheryl’s vocation had a profound effect on son Chad, who matured to pursue a career as a Paramedic and Firefighter.  Chad became involved in recreational league athletics working with Barry Cook, who was the Athletic Director of Parks and Recreation for Rabun County, Georgia. Cheryl volunteered to coach basketball for Barry and ended up coaching herself into remarriage and a return to athletics.

Tragedy stuck in 2003 when Cheryl suffered a debilitating injury to her right hand resulting in endless hours of physical therapy.  Cheryl used the down time to pursue another career change earning a Master’s Degree in Education-Cross Categorical Special Education from the University of Phoenix.   Teaching others to overcome challenges and injury came naturally following Cheryl’s experience as she taught the following eight years in both the private and public school sectors.  Both Barry and Cheryl coached basketball, fast-pitch softball, and track.  Spending days in a classroom and constantly on the road in their spare time led to the infamous coach’s diet of fast food and anything for an energy boost. Pounds went on and health plus fitness declined in direct proportion.  

Rock and Roll Savannah 2011After developing a fear of being taller laying down than standing up, Cheryl resolved to restore her health through biking and running.  The pounds begin to drop off as she participated in local 5K races and she celebrated shedding one hundred and six pounds by participating in an Olympic Triathlon event in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The experience was brutal.  Cheryl completed the swim alongside a dead carp after fellow swimmers barreled over her, almost was the last place finisher in the bike ride portion of the event, but rallied to catch son Chad in the run.   

 Cheryl and Barry left teaching and coaching in 2010 to help care for respective ailing parents who were enduring health issues.  Barry and Cheryl have since acquired the designation as health and wellness coaches with AdvoCare and have traveled the Southeast and Midwest for the past three years helping others achieve fitness goals.  Running together has created special memories to include the 2013 Disney Goofy Challenge with son and daughter in law. Cheryl joined Athens Workout Warriors and credits trainer April Williams in learning to train sensibility, not just run until you drop.  Good nutrition aided Cheryl’s qualification for the USAT Duathlon National Championship to be conducted in Arizona in October 2013.   

X-Country Half MarathonCheryl discovered Run and See Georgia and the Black Bag race series at the January 2013 ML5K in Athens.  Run and See 2012 overall point’s queen and unofficial ambassador Kathy Givens introduced Cheryl to other participating runners and explained point chasing as only Kathy can do.  Ron Landen encouraged Cheryl participation in the Black Bag and Clover Glove series.  Husband Barry occasionally has joined the adventure to meet Cheryl’s running acquaintances.  The Disney Dopey Challenge with fellow runner Sarah Wishnietsky conquering 48.6 miles in four days is on the horizon possibly followed by emulating Georg Southgate completing fifty marathons in fifty states.  When her running pace occasionally slows, Cheryl and Barry are avid German Sheppard rescue participants.

Bob checking out from the back of the pack.  Watch for the profile on Milledgeville’s Troy Garland and the profile on Cheryl’ s fellow Dopey participant Sarah Wishnietsky.