Going the ‘Distance’: SOFO Varsity Boys Break 4×800 School Record


Austin Hamilton

Sophomore Thomas Lichtenwalner, Sophomore Ben Winn, Junior Adam Zorko and Senior Ben Bergey stand for a group photo after running the 4×800 relay. The boys broke a 15 year-old school record and all split under 2:06 per 800.

Carmel Yonas, Opinions Editor & Senior Reporter

On Saturday, March 4, parents and relatives arrived at Lambert High School for the 10th Annual Longhorn Stampede. Schools from all over the county and beyond gathered their best runners, throwers and hurdlers and made the trip to Suwanee, GA.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., athletes endured unexpectedly sunny weather and its unwanted side effects: fatigue and energy drain.

In spite of these conditions, all of the teams gave outstanding performances throughout the day. However, the real stars of the meet were four Varsity Boys runners from none other than South Forsyth High School.

Sophomore Ben Winn, Sophomore Thomas Lichtenwalner, Junior Adam Zorko and Senior Ben Bergey not only won the 4×800 relay (8:08) but broke the previous school record from 2008 (8:14). 

Coach Austin Hamilton, the Head Coach for Sprinters and interim Head Coach for Distance, had his sights set on a new 4×800 relay school record since the beginning of the season.

The goal for this meet was to go for the school record.

— Austin Hamilton

“With the rich history that South has, specifically in distance running, it was crazy to me that they hadn’t broken the record sooner,” Hamilton said. “The fact that it was Bergey’s first race of the season and he was a part of a school record, is amazing. I’m so glad he started his season on a high note.”

As the gun went off for the boys 4×800, Winn, South’s starting leg, leapt to the front of the pack and led the race through both laps before handing the baton off to Lichtenwalner and splitting a 2:02. Placing Winn as the first leg was a very strategic move on Hamilton’s end and is a big factor in their success as a team. But Bergey and Winn weren’t the sole contributors to the team’s astounding accomplishment.

After Winn sprinted to the finish, he handed the baton off to Lichtenwalner who shuffled forward and took off. Lichtenwalner not only maintained a top three position but split a 2:06 800 as he delivered the baton to Zorko, South’s third leg.

Before Lichtenwalner could catch his breath, Zorko was already on his way to the 200 meter. His flawless and efficient form made way for an outstanding run (splitting a 2:02) and put South in the lead.

“Seeing the speed Zorko has when he doesn’t think and simply runs is mind blowing; the talent seeps out of him,” Hamilton said. “On the other hand, watching two young sophomores run such incredible times opened my eyes to their potential during the season and beyond.”

The whole team’s performance at the Longhorn Stampede has lasting implications.

“Having the boys race in a 4×800 before county, and doing better than expected, set the trajectory for the rest of the season,” Hamilton said.

As Zorko made his way around the final 200 and leaped to the line, all eyes were on Bergey . The moment Bergey received the baton he took off with lightening speed. Despite Bergey being far ahead of his competitors, he kicked to the finish and earned his team a new school record.

“I loved being able to witness Bergey crossing the finish and seeing the time,” Hamilton said. “It’s a no-brainer that we beat the school record; I hope that every athlete in their lifetime gets the chance to experience something as beautiful as this.”

It’s evident that these boys are no ordinary athletes.

As the season progresses, and they achieve more PR’s, the boys have another goal in mind: to break eight minutes in the 4×800.