Every so often, a team will hit the field of competition, and at the end of the day, it feels like you just won a state title but the scores don’t show it that way.
Last Saturday, the Hot Springs boys team competed at the state cross country meet, held 40 miles away at Hart Ranch, and at the end, it had seemed like we had won the title. But really we finished 11th out of the 15 schools that fielded a full squad. That placing may not seem like much to those of you reading this article, but what it does not show is the heart, guts, determination of six young men, who for almost three months, have put it on the line with little support, and finished their last race of the season with results that should be envied.
We were projected to finish 14th overall; we finished three places ahead of that. Our top runner was predicted to finish 84th; we beat that. As a matter of fact, all the kids beat their projected finish.
Josh Stanley led the way finishing 26th and missing the medal stand by one placing. Josh ran a very strong race from start to finish, coming in at 17:36. This was the first time in his cross country career that he did break the 18 minute barrier. Adam Consoer (64th, 18:30) was next followed by Pierce Sword (71st, 18:36), Oliver Juhl (84th, 18:55.4), Keaton Bissonnette (85th, 18:55.9) and Tyler Winscot (89th,18:59).
These kids ran the same race today as they did at the region meet, not letting each other out of site. I cannot begin to describe the pride that Coach Hayes and I felt about our team; they really put a complete race together on their final race of the season.
Half way through the season, we told them that they looked like a JV squad with their effort and times, and when this was over, I was asked by Josh if they looked like the same JV team. It is always nice to eat your words and flat out tell them that “No, you do not look like a JV team.”
Take a look at these kids, especially the 8th grade runners, you cannot be serious that kids this young can compete and place ahead of other high school runners, but they did.
The best part of the race happened when we were talking to the kids who will be back out next year; telling us that they can’t wait for the next season to begin. Yes, they have something to prove to themselves as well as others.
The seniors really did their part in the race, but it is what they did over the last two weeks leading up to this meet that was really impressive. Getting to state was never about them it was about getting a team to state, the leadership they demonstrated to the other members was awesome. Early morning practices, running in all kinds of weather, ice bathing, helping the younger kids, and making sure that there was a great deal of humor no matter how hard the practice had been on any given day, having the guts to jump into Cold Brook Lake last Thursday.
If you can understand the meaning behind this; it is not what you can hold in your hand that is the most important, but what you can hold in your heart for the rest of your life that means way more than any trophy.
My best coaching moment came last Saturday, we did not win a title or have a medal to hold onto; what I have is the pride that maybe myself and Coach Hayes had in being able to spend some quality time with a group of dedicated young athletes, not only the runners but the other kids on our team who came to watch their teammates run. Got to love the word TEAM; because it describes the family that we became over the course of the season, where winning is found on a daily basis.
For my assistant coach Jim Hayes, I cannot say enough about the man. He adds so much to the team, his patience and at the right time his ability to correct and motivate athletes is beyond description. I am very fortunate to have Jim as an assistant coach.
Final thought, congratulations to our fellow BHC conference and Region 5 runners. Hill City, Custer and STM girls went 1-2-3 and Custer and STM went 2 and 5 as teams. Joe Noise, the head coach from Hill City, won his first team title and on hand was Dan Asheim the former Hill City coach and good friend, watched his school win state as Dan did back in 2007 with his boys. Really cool when you know that you compete in the toughest conference and region every year, and I do mean every year.