The Mount Paran Christian runner started the year with a win at the Landmark Cross Country Invitational, crossing the finish line in 16 minutes, 58.70 seconds — roughly 5 seconds faster than his nearest competitor.
Things just got better from there.
“I found out that I really liked winning,” he said. “So, after a couple of races, I kicked up my training and got better and really went hard at it to peak at the right moments. It was exciting to see how all of my training paid off.”
Carr’s increased training led him to the Area 4A championship and a runner-up finish at the private school Class A state meet.
Entering his senior season, Carr has a lot on his mind, including defending his area title and winning the state championship that eluded him last season.
“Reilly Friedman just got the best of me at the state meet,” Carr said of his rival from Galloway. “Winning state has definitely been the fuel behind my training this offseason. I think about it almost every day on what I could have done better.
“He and I were close at about the second mile, but Reilly took off and I couldn’t stay with him. He beat me by about 30 seconds. Losing that race has been a big factor, and I’ve used it as motivation for my season.”
Mount Paran coach Jason Beard understands how hard Carr has been working, and he’s looking forward to seeing how the results play out.
“Joey’s been our No. 1 guy from the get-go,” Beard said. “He has the motivation and the drive to succeed. I don’t need to push him. It was easy to see that from him.
“He sets a good pace for himself in a race. He doesn’t have the greatest kick, but he paces himself well. He sets goals on his splits as he goes around and goes into a meet with a feeling for each split. He prepares himself well.”
Carr’s offseason training took a stumble right before last spring’s track and field season began. He was hit with a bad case of the flu and didn’t really recover until after the season was over.
“I wanted so hard to get motivated for track season and compete, but it was tough,” Carr said. “I was hoping for a good year, but I ended up finishing 10th at state in the 3,200.”
With the flu behind him, Carr has been training to make sure he’s capable of starting his races strong, and finishing them strong as well.
“I’ve been focused on running faster this offseason,” he said. “I feel like, if I had that, then the result at state could have been different. I want to start fast and end faster.”
Besides the area and state titles, Carr has other goals on his mind as well, including eclipsing the school records set by Darryn Hutchinson in 2010. Hutchinson won the Cobb County championship as a senior in a school-best time 16:02. He also ran the 3,200 in 9:40 and the 1,500 in 4:34.
“Those records have been on my mind since my sophomore year,” Carr said. “I really want to get those, and I’m going to try really hard. Winning state though is the ultimate goal.”
While Carr will be searching for individual glory, Marietta will be hoping for any kind of team glory.
The Blue Devils fielded one of their best teams in school history last year, but they came up a bit short when it mattered most. Led by seniors Ben Pleak, Jake Bagwell, Trager Kviten, Jaylen Ferguson, Alexander Goolsby and Orlando Frazier and junior Jack Henderson, Marietta won the Region 4AAAAAA championship and finished as the runner-up at the Cobb County Championships.
But it was the runner-up finish at the Class AAAAAA state meet that had Marietta coach Jack Coleman thinking that things could have been different.
“We were definitely set up to win it,” he said. “We felt like we lost an opportunity last year. We’re in rebuild mode this time.
“We have a bunch of young kids who ran junior varsity for us last year. Jack Henderson is back. He was our No. 5 guy, but now he’s with a whole new group of kids who have worked hard and put in the miles to try to get better every day. Each week is an opportunity for them to jell and, by the end of the year, be ready to qualify for state.”