When someone approaches retirement, reflection on the track record of a career often follows as the retiree, colleagues and friends celebrate the upcoming milestone. But in this case, “track record” has a literal meaning that likely will never be broken.
Carrollton boys head track coach Craig Musselwhite has announced plans to retire at the end of this season. His record of success will go down in Carrollton High School athletic history as the coach with the most state championships in one sport as a head coach – eight to date – plus five more as an assistant coach.
Now in his 27th year as head coach, Musselwhite said he is looking forward to retirement and shared the news with his staff and team last week.
“There were some tears and bowed heads in the room – including mine – when I told them, but I thought it was important to let them know now rather than later,” said Musselwhite.
“I have to admit I’m still having a little bit of a hard time comprehending that I won’t be coaching anymore after this year,” he continued, as he worked his team in a hurdles drill Thursday afternoon. “I started running when I was 5 years old and have been on the track in some form ever since. It will be an adjustment, but it is time.”
Carrollton City Schools Supt. Dr. Mark Albertus said Musselwhite is a prime example of how a strong coach is a key mentor who can make good boys become better men.
“Coach Musslewhite has had a profound impact on this community not only with his coaching accomplishments but in positively affecting the lives of hundreds of Carrollton youth, many from difficult backgrounds,” said Albertus. “Without recognition or fanfare, coach worked behind the scenes to help kids navigate the difficult years of adolescence, enabling them to become well-adjusted adults. And this was whether they could run fast or not.”
The theme of mentorship is a prevalent attribute others have recognized as well.
“Coach Musselwhite is truly a giant among track and field coaching legends,” said Paul Fitz-Simons, CHS athletic director. “His body of work speaks for itself. More than that though, his guidance and unnoticed daily sacrifices to Carrollton youth for the last 30 years is what warrants his celebration. I am thankful for his many years of service.”
CHS Principal David Brooks also noted Musselwhite has been an exceptional event coordinator, successfully managing local cross country and track meets plus high profile events such as the Georgia High School Association annual state cross country championships, held on the Carrollton City Schools campus since 1994.
“Coach Musselwhite has done a great job as the state cross country meet director and he was instrumental in getting the state track meet to Carrollton,” said Brooks. “He has done an exceptional job and I appreciate all his hard work and his dedication to Carrollton High School.”
A product of the storied Carrollton track program himself, Musselwhite, a 1985 graduate who went on to continue at the next level as a track star at Auburn University, also was part of two consecutive CHS team titles as a freshman and sophomore in 1982-1983 and captured his own three individual state champion titles in the high jump as a sophomore, junior and senior. For his success as a top prep athlete, he was inducted into the Trojan Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993.
Musselwhite returned to the Trojan track program as a student coach for the 1990 season and never looked back. Right out of the blocks, he helped the program bring home another state title that year, followed by two more state championships and a runner-up finish as an assistant coach before assuming the head coaching role in 1994. During this tenure, he accumulated eight more state titles and three additional state runner-up trophies. Between his participation in the program as an athlete and his total years of coaching, Musselwhite’s all-encompassing track record boasts 13 state championships, four runner-up titles, 27 Top Four state finishes, supported by the same number of region titles, over a 35-year Carrollton career. And well before retirement was even a thought in his mind, his body of work drew the attention of the Georgia Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 2010.
But even with retirement now imminent, Musselwhite is a coach first and is busy preparing – and motivating – his kids for the task ahead. He said he believes the team has the talent to pull off one last state title under his watch.
“The team was fifth in state last year, fourth the year before,” he said. “We have the potential to win it all. That would be an awesome way to finish out my career.”