In the final meet, on Nov. 6, against Mercersburg Academy, the plebes once again drubbed their opponents, this time 20-35. Carter came in a mediocre seventh, though his time improved to 10:17. Thus ended his formal athletic career.
Carter's strong cross-country showing at Navy is somewhat surprising in view of the fact that his high school in Plains, Georgia, from which he graduated in a class of 14 girls and 12 boys, didn't have a track or cross-country team. Nor were there any intercollegiate athletics at Georgia Southwestern, a junior college in nearby Americus, that Carter attended next. And Carter didn't go out for sports during his brief stay at Georgia Tech, either. Where had the President learned to run?
Billy Wise, a classmate at Plains High School and Georgia Southwestern, recalls that in their last year at Plains, after practicing basketball on an outdoor dirt court, he and Carter would run home to their neighboring farms in the community of Archery, a distance of 2� miles.
"We used to run down the railroad, a block from school," Wise says. "We ran on the crossties. It took practice. You had to keep the length of your stride right to hit the tie. Otherwise you'd get a sprained ankle. What we were mainly doing was building up our stamina. I can't think why we chose the railroad," adds Wise, explaining that the dirt road to Archery ran almost parallel to the tracks.
Carter's only other athletic achievement was playing forward—"He had a hook shot," Wise recalls—on the Plains High basketball team. During his last year in school, when his team had a losing record, Carter played one of his best games against Leesburg, scoring nine points as Plains won 23-18. At Georgia Southwestern, Carter made the intramural freshman all-star basketball team as a starting guard. One of his teammates at Southwestern, Bobby Logan, now a high school coach in Albany, Ga., remembers Carter as "about five-foot-seven, 130,135 pounds. He was a little better than average. Nothing spectacular, a steady performer. He would hustle. He never was a big scorer. I did the scoring."
Jimmy Carter certainly wasn't elected captain of the big Red, White and Blue team because of his athletic prowess. But that old determined surge in the last 100, 150 yards seems to have stood him in good stead.
When Coach Clark sent Carter a congratulatory note after his election, he received a prompt acknowledgment: "Your cross-country coaching came in handy during the last two years of my campaign."