Editor's Note : The following is the eighth in a series highlighting the Top 10 local and area sports stories of 2009 as chosen by the staff of The Garden City Telegram. Today's story, No. 3, is about the Greeley County cross country teams sweeping state.
By BRETT MARSHALL
TRIBUNE — It was the fall of 2006.
Isaac Wilson and Madison Moser were just entering their first year of high school at Greeley County and were rookies on the respective Jackrabbit cross country teams.
Little did they realize that four seasons later, they would end their prep cross country careers with a combined total of five state team championships.
Those illustrious performances were capped off this past October when the two seniors each placed third individually at the Class 1A state meet in Wamego to pave the way for both the Jackrabbit boys and girls to come home with championship trophies.
"I forgot how meaningful each one was," Moser said in looking back at her team's three first-place trophies. "It's kind of sad because I wish there was another season."
While Moser and her teammates earned three team titles (freshman, junior and senior years), Wilson bookended his prep career with team titles as a freshman and senior.
In between, the Jackrabbit boys would place third and second, not a bad mark either.
"Just going into the state meet this year, I felt absolutely no pressure," Wilson said. "If I run well, we'll still get second. If I run poorly, we'll still likely get second. If I run normal, we'll get second, too."
The reason for that lack of pressure was due in part to the dominance of Ness City over the past two seasons in which the Eagles had nearly scored a perfect score in 2008 to claim the 1A boys crown. They had not lost this year, either, but the gap between the Jackrabbits and Eagles closed significantly over the last few weeks of the regular season.
"When we got within 10 points, we had a better feeling," Wilson said. "When we were within two points (at regionals), we knew that if for some reason they didn't run their best and we ran our best, that we'd be there to take it. And we did."
For veteran Jackrabbit coach Greg Cook, the double-victory effort was just icing on the cake for his seniors and he couldn't think of a better way to cap off his two top performers' senior year.
"At times, it's still hard to believe that we won (boys)," Cook said. "When we figured out that we had 24 points, I knew that maybe, just maybe, we had won. But it was hard to conceive that at the time."
For Wilson and Moser, Cook couldn't think of two more outstanding student-athletes to have been able to coach.
"They are among the most hard-working, dedicated athletes you'll find," Cook said. "The legacy they leave here will be difficult to match. But we've got a lot of young kids who really want to run and they'll carry it on. What Madi has done is pretty amazing."
Another of the Jackrabbit seniors, Kellum Schneider, was on the team from his sophomore season to this fall, after his family moved back to Tribune from Lakin. He was able to be part of a team that went from third to second to first.
"As a senior, there's a constant reminder that it's your last chance," said Schneider, who placed 10th individually for Greeley County. "It's been a pretty good feeling and I just think I was surprised when I found out we won. It was definitely a pretty good day."
Moser said that upon entering her senior season, she realized she would not have any more chances to do her best. So, she recommitted her training and it paid off in a big way.
"When you're up at 6 a.m. and rolling in for morning practice (a 4-mile run), and it gets cold and toward the end of the season, you always wonder what you're doing," Moser said. "But I knew Kennedy (Schneider, sophomore) would be getting up and she's been the motivator for me. Looking back, I know I did everything I could to help us win. I have no regrets."
For Wilson, the day in late October will be one that won't soon be forgotten.
"If you don't believe (in winning) then why go out and why run?" Wilson said. "People thought we couldn't do it, but we just kept getting better. Yes, I was a bit shocked that we won, but that's why you go compete. Nothing is handed to you. You have to work for everything you get."
And for Cook, who now will look for his underclassmen to step into the big shoes of his graduating seniors, what will the future hold?
"We've got a lot of younger kids who are interested in running and want to carry it on," said Cook. "You don't replace the kind of young people we're losing. But you hope to find others who will want to step up and work just as hard. That's the fun part of coaching these kids. They are easy to be around."