Completing the Mission: A Recap of the MVLXC Season

Cross Country, News, Rotator — By on April 22, 2016 5:00 am

The 2015 boys cross country team returns to state to capture the championship

By Zach Krogmann
This journey started as just a dream. For some runners it started just a few months or even a few weeks before the season. For others it started a long time ago, watching their brothers or sisters doing great things, and for some it started last year, Nov. 1, 2014, after a disappointing runner-up finish at state. But that’s not the point. How someone starts dreaming of winning a state championship doesn’t matter. What matters is that it happened, it started, and when that dream turned into a goal that the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Cross Country team thought they could achieve, there was no stopping them. Coach Kory Swart never failed to remind them they had unfinished business left at Fort Dodge.

Jack Young and Reid Smock compete at the state meet Oct. 31. Photo by Faith Anton.

Jack Young and Reid Smock compete at the state meet Oct. 31. Photo by Faith Anton.

The Mount Vernon-Lisbon team had a lot to look forward to this season. They brought back six solid runners with state meet experience starting with Reid Smock, a senior who finished seventh last year at the state meet. Jack Young and Chase McLaughlin, who finished 21st and 27th, and three alternates. They also gained two new runners: Thatcher Krob, a sophomore who played football his freshman year, and Liam Conroy, a junior, who decided to try cross country for the first time.

The first official cross country practice was two weeks before the first day of school, so yeah, you could say that was the start, but it wasn’t. Not even close. Young started his training in June running about 25 miles a week and by the time the season started he was running close to 50. Young believes that summer training is very important, especially for the first month in the season. Peyton Wilch and Thatcher Krob started their training early in the summer and ran about six days a week. “The team’s success relies on the work done in the summer by everyone in the program,” said Swart. Coach Swart always preached that they needed to stay humble, hungry, and healthy to reach their goals at the end of the season.

What keeps these guys going? How do they motivate themselves to get up in the middle of the summer and run when the season is months away? You could make a strong case for last season. They were supposed to win and they didn’t. To all the returning runners it was a huge motivator. Going all that way to finish second. It didn’t end the way they hoped it would. This year they didn’t want to leave it to chance. They knew they needed to get better every day, just like in other sport, to reach their potential.

Of course, like everything else, you can’t always predict what’s going to happen or how it’s going to end. Take Liam Conroy for example. He finally decided to go out for Cross Country but didn’t take it seriously at first. He ran in the slower groups and he even thought about quitting after the first practice when Coach Swart sent him home early for not having his physical updated. He kept going though, and the turning point for Conroy was his first meet. He finished ninth on the team and ran a pretty fast time compared to some of the runners he had been practicing with. “That’s when I started taking it more seriously,” said Conroy, “and by the third or fourth meet I was on varsity.”

Thatcher Krob, a sophomore, had been on Lisbon’s football team before, but after seeing his brother, TJ, have so much fun last year he decided to try it out. Thatcher was a solid varsity runner all year but really came on strong at districts, the state qualifying meet, finishing third on the Mount Vernon-Lisbon team.

Even with runners coming on strong some runners still weren’t sure they could pull it off. The Iowa City Regina meet had some questioning how good they really were. The heat played a little bit of a factor but the times were slow. “I think that made us stronger,” said Wilch.

Before they knew it, it was districts time. Districts, the state qualifying meet, is unlike any other meet because for a lot of the runners there it is their last race of the season. Many of these runners want to “go out with a bang” or “leave it all out there” for their last race so the first mile is usually pretty quick. But it wasn’t anything that Mount Vernon-Lisbon hadn’t seen before and they dominated the competition with a score of 22 points. A perfect score is 15. They had five runners in the top 15. “I feel like at districts we showed everyone that we really were that good,” said Wilch.

They did show everyone. Next stop Fort Dodge, where the state meet is held every year. The team had an easy run the night before in Coach Swart’s hometown of Belmont, it was nice to be able to see where Coach Swart grew up running Cross Country and Track. There were signs all along the route of their run saying things like “Run Fast” or “Good Luck at State.” The bank even had a big sign on Main Street that said “Good Luck Mount Vernon-Lisbon”. It was a good feeling and it gave them some confidence. Even the bus driver was confident, when asked at a gas station why they came all the way from Mount Vernon and Lisbon to Fort Dodge she answered, “We are here to win state.”

Cross country is unique compared to other team sports when it comes to deciding who won. In most sports you know who won once the time runs out because you can check the scoreboard. In cross country you have seven runners on a team, but only the top five runners from your team count. So that means they have to keep track of everybody, and once the race is over they take the places from your top five runners and add them all up. The team with the lowest score wins. It’s a little anti-climatic.

Pretty soon it was the next morning. There was nervousness and excitement. The bus ride from the hotel to the golf course in Fort Dodge was only 30 minutes, but it felt long. Once they reached the golf course though time flew, and before they knew it the gun went off. There was so many runners, and so many fans. This was way more runners than they have seen all year and there was so many fans that it felt like running through a tunnel the whole time. They couldn’t even see the white lines that were keeping the runners on the course because spectators lined the whole 3.1 miles and everyone was leaning in to get a better look. They couldn’t even hear their mile splits because of the screaming and the yelling from the fans. It gave them a rush that they haven’t had any other time during the season.

The best part of the race might be the final stretch, this is where you go all out, for the last race of the season. Once you see that finish line and think about where you started and the crazy ride it has been, it’s a moment to remember. Right as Young finished he knew they had done it. “When I crossed the finish line next to Chase and turned around to see Thatcher and Liam right behind us, I just thought, gosh, we just won state,” said Young.

2015 State Champs

2015 State Champs

After Conroy crossed the finish line he hugged everyone that he saw with a MVL Cross Country t-shirt on and tried to soak up the moment. He had dreamed of running at the state meet since the beginning of the season and his dream came true. The team’s top five runners as individuals finished, Smock third, McLaughlin 12th, Young 13th, Krob 20th, Conroy 21st. For Peyton Wilch and Reid Smock this was their last high school cross country race, possibly their last cross country race ever, and the last time they got to feel that “giving it all you got” feeling down the home stretch on a cross country course. “Going down the final stretch was crazy, knowing that it was my last cross country race. It’s pretty unbelievable that I’m done running cross country. It felt unreal,” said Smock.

Waiting, waiting, and more waiting in a crowd full of high school runners who just finished running too, and they were just as anxious to see the results as Mount Vernon-Lisbon was. It was quiet compared to the rest of the golf course. Just a bunch of teams huddled together talking softly with each other. A man started pushing his way through the crowd to hang up a piece of paper with the the results up on a bulletin board, he only got halfway through the crowd before he reached the Mount Vernon-Lisbon team. Everyone was trying to see that green sheet of paper he was holding. It was just like in elementary school when someone brought in their pet guinea pig in for show and tell and all the other kids were sticking their heads in trying to get a good look at it. Young was the first one to see it, “Mount Vernon-Lisbon, MOUNT VERNON-LISBON!” he yelled. Right there on the very top line where only the name of the first place team gets to sit it said “Mount Vernon-Lisbon, 50 points.” It wasn’t very quiet anymore because in the crowd of people they celebrated. They didn’t care that they were in everyone’s way. They didn’t care that they had tears of joy running down their faces. “I felt speechless,” said Thatcher Krob. “It was a surreal moment.”

And the rest was history. Up on the deck while receiving their medals and the State Champion trophy, Young thought back to three years ago, when he was a freshman. They barely qualified for state and finished eighth as a team. Kory Swart took the team aside and said, “Maybe not this year but we have the talent to get up on that deck.” Young never let that one go. They had just completed the journey that started years ago for many. It also put a big smile on Coach Kory Swart’s face to finally be able to say the words “Finished Business.”

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