Racing Against the Clock

Two runners leave a well- established legacy for Viking running


Photo by D. Proctor

John Bolinger (12) and Mac Salley (12) stride to place first and second at the Spartanburg County meet.

Lars Harris, Sports Co-Editor

John Bolinger (12) and Mac Salley (12) have been at the forefront of the Viking Cross Country team for the past three years. Excelling in long-distance running is just a scratch on the surface of what they have achieved. From three-time consecutive All State-Honors, four-time All-County Honors and All-Region Honors to multiple recognitions as South Carolina “Runner of the Week,” these two seniors have earned accolades far beyond that of the typical athlete.

Both are multisport athletes for the Vikings. Bolinger started his athletic career as a soccer player, which is not a surprising background for elite distance runners. Bolinger plays right back for the Vikings and his club team. Bolinger started his running career in seventh grade, where he dropped a stunning 19:42 on his first official 5K race. He did not stop there – throughout the season he slowly chipped away at that time, finally finishing with a season best of 18:41 as a seventh grader.

“I started running cross country to stay in shape for soccer. I realized that I had the potential to be good at it, and now I have fun with my friends,” Bolinger said.

He began to run more seriously and began to see his times get faster and faster at an alarming rate. With this being his senior year, Bolinger saw this as his last chance to leave his mark on the Vikings athletics and state history books. Bolinger placed fifth at the Wendy’s Invitational, which is one of the largest meets in the Southeast, and he then went on to place second at the Starlight Run.

Still hungry for more, Bolinger placed his foot down at the Region 2-5A Championship and displayed his lethal kick on Dorman’s home course, finishing ahead of all runners as the region champion. The week following the cross country team had their seasonal Duncan Park 2.5-mile tempo run time trial where Bolinger broke the school record with a 12:09. Bolinger was on a hot streak and at the Jim and Eileen Kilbreth Spartanburg Country Championships, he managed to pull off another first place finish, beating his teammate Salley by only a second.

Salley began his sports career with a more diverse athletic background from playing lacrosse to football, tennis and wrestling in middle school. Starting off his first race in ninth grade with an 18:41 at Dorman, which is considered one of South Carolina’s most difficult courses, coaches could see his running talent despite his non-endurance athletic background. Salley steadily improved race to race, managing to set personal bests the whole season. He finished his freshman season with a season best of 16:33. Playing tennis in the spring, Salley was not able to get the extra conditioning in track like Bolinger; despite this, he managed to stay in shape.

This also being Salley’s senior year, he had an amazing season finishing stronger than most would have anticipated. Despite falling one place short of winning the Spartanburg County Championship, he went out to the 5A State Qualifiers and placed in the top five and set his season personal best, but he was not done. Salley went on to the 5A State Championship, where he was not even projected to earn top 10, but he went to the line and forgot about the place seedings and just ran his race. Salley finished sixth, upsetting at least five places of runners.

“This is my last race, so let’s all just have fun and race,” Salley said.

Cross Country and Track coach Jack Todd has had the pleasure of coaching various runners through his many years of coaching. He has particularly enjoyed watching Bolinger and Salley grow into their leadership roles as they mentor younger runners and establish a culture of excellence.

“John and Mac are self-motivated, which is a prerequisite to becoming an elite runner.  I can simply assign them a workout, and I know they will accomplish it to the best of their abilities,” Todd said.