By BRETT MARSHALL
For Greg Cook, success in distance running is nothing new — both as a prep standout himself at Dighton and now as the coach of the Greeley County cross country and track and field teams.
So when he took this year's track and field squad to state at Cessna Stadium in Wichita, it was no surprise the success of his team came predominantly from his runners — and discus thrower Jonathan Miller.
When the two-day event ended, the Greeley County girls team finished fourth overall in Class 1A, and the boys were tied for eighth. On top of that, Cook had three individual state champions.
Two seniors — Kellum Schneider in the 800-meters and Madison Moser in the 1,600 — claimed gold. Miller, a junior, dominated the 1A discus field with five throws good enough to win the title on the way to his season best performance.
The success of Cook's program is predicated on developing a respectful relationship with his runners.
"You've got to prepare the kids mentally and convince them that they can do that," said Cook, The Telegram's Track and Field Coach of the Year. "It's a season-long process and not just about one meet."
Cook said he has the Jackrabbits do a progression type of training as the season goes along.
"We do a lot of distance training early and then move into more pace work in the mid-season and maintain their endurance," Cook said. "At the end of the season we do a lot of speed work, faster paces, 400 (meters) repetitions."
Cook said for five to six years he has had his runners try to simulate the race in practices where sometimes they run hard the first 600, then cruise. Other times they will run easy and then hard.
The race, though, still remains mostly mental at that stage, according to Cook.
"You've just to be convinced that whatever limitation you think you have, you can go beyond that," he said.
The special moment this year came at the medal awards ceremony in the center of Cessna Stadium when Cook, himself a former state champion, presented Moser with her gold medal and former school record-holder Gus Ochsner placed Schneider's gold medal in his hands.
"That was super to be able to do that," Cook said. "Allowing former champions to present the medals was just really one of the great things I've experienced."