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The thrill of victory, oh yeah

Don Rogers

Here’s a couple of headlines no one would have believed before now: “White Sox win World Series””Husky harriers win state”All within the week. The excitement has been too much. My arms are sore from the fist pumps, voice hoarse from the hollering, heart full of that spectators’ secondhand pride. As if we had something to do with the athletes’ accomplishments besides cheering them on.The White Sox are near and dear to the family heart. They were the favorite of our kids’ beloved Poppy, a ballplayer himself who died a few years ago, a loyal fan whose lifetime came and went between championships.Only the Yankees are closer to our son’s heart (and not by much), having lived in New York during those formative Little League years. He was all the more thrilled with the Sox this year, knowing their history and his Poppy. They haven’t done this since 1917, after generations of playing second fiddle to the beloved Cubs.As for Battle Mountain cross country, they’ve been extremely near and dear for four seasons, almost since the summer day in 2002 our boy had to run with Dad for punishment and blew the old guy off the mountain. Hmmm. So we’ve had the window seat on the program’s ascension from a dozen kids and dead last at regionals to this year’s amazing races and a team grown larger than football squads. We watched and cheered as Rob Findlay and Jenny Thorne knocked on the door three years ago, coming so agonizingly close to qualifying for the state meet as individuals. Two years ago the boys showed a ton of promise, without a senior on the squad. They had Grant Stevenson, Zach Erickson, Andy Given and a bunch of other juniors, along with my sophomore son and freshman Jake Ball, coming back. We just knew great things were in store. And two girls – then-sophomore Erika Ghent and freshman Molly McGee – broke through to earn individual invites to the state meet. But my most enduring memory from that year was senior Jenny Thorne running through what turned out to be a stress fracture and collapsing at the finish line of her last high school cross country race. How tough is that? I’ve never seen more courage in competition at any level. Last year, the boys and girls qualified as teams for the first time ever to run at state. The girls, who would lose only Jessica Medsker to graduation, signaled they would be real state contenders with a fifth-place finish. Ghent took fourth in that race. Her freshman sister, Christa, sophomores McGee and Marit Johnson, and a horde of juniors led by Leslie Peterson, Whitney Allard, Sammy McCoy and Melissa Hines set the stage for this year. The boys also made a statement that they belonged with a middle-of-the-pack 11th at state. But they were losing Stevenson, Erickson, Given and Irapan Sanchez to graduation. Sensation Jonny Stevens led a promising group of freshmen, including Ryan Walker and John O’Neill, but no one expected much of the boys. 2005 would be a rebuilding year, or so we figured.Instead – whew! – this year almost every member of the boys and girls teams qualified individually for state. Not that that mattered because they won as teams at the same regionals at the same place where they finished dead last just a wink of time ago.The boys actually could have done better than 10th at state, which no one even would have believed of them a year ago. Just wasn’t in the cards Saturday, though, after a stunning one-point victory at regionals the previous week. But next year they will lose only our son and fellow senior Shea Phelan, who brought a huge boost to the boys’ side this year. Now-junior Ball had a breakout year to go with Stevens, who took ninth at the state meet. And the rest of this year’s speedy sophomores, including Jamie Fahrmayer, and promising freshmen Lorenzo Macias and Andy Wentzel are poised to keep improving the boys side.The girls will lose talented seniors Jennifer Bowles, who took third in the state meet; Erika Ghent, who won regionals and toughed out ninth place at state; Peterson; and Allard. But they’ll return Christa Ghent, McGee and Johnson, to go with a promising pack of JVs who won just about every meet they entered this season, once placing Huskies first through sixth on the podium. So let’s put it this way. The White Sox did great, and their fans will savor this World Series for a lifetime. But the Battle Mountain cross country teams, well, they’re just getting started. They’ll be back contending next year, both boys and girls squads. We fans will be back, too, cheering them all on, along with our now-freshman daughter.Yes, we’d be there, like Sox fans of yore, for our teams first or last and love them just as much. Gotta admit, though. First is a lot more fun. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado


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