Blue Springs junior Stephen Mugeche ran away from a star-studded pack of competitors to earn The Examiner’s 2014 Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Most of the competition came from his own Wildcat teammates, as junior twins Khalil and Carlos Davis earned national acclaim with a jaw-dropping state performance in the discus.
Carlos won the state meet with a 2014 nation-wide best throw of 212 feet, 5 inches and Khalil was right behind with a throw of 197 feet, which would have won a state title the past nine years.
Mugeche, however, led the Wildcats with 19.5 points at state – finishing second in the 3,200 meters, fourth in the 1,600 and 800 and anchoring the fourth-place 3,200 relay team.
“What he did at state is remarkable,” Blue Springs coach Joe Cusack said of Mugeche. “He competed in those four events to help his team win a state championship. He didn’t care about the individual glory. He wanted to score points, and he wound up leading us in total points – which he did at every meet this year.
Cusack said there isn’t a more deserving young man to win the top track athlete award.
“He is so special,” the coach said, “and we have him and a lot of his teammates back next season!”
While the future excites the highly recruited junior, he took some time this week to reflect on a memorable 2014 season.
“To win the Athlete of the Year, this year, with great athletes like the Davis twins and all the other area athletes, is very special,” said Mugeche, a soft-spoken and thoughtful young man whose persona away from the track belies his fiery competitive drive. “Now that the season is over, it’s nice to reflect of all our accomplishments. Winning state after finishing second the past two years is the biggest accomplishment – that was all any of us cared about – and seeing Coach Cusack tear up after we won made it even more special.
“Working with Coach (Frank) Gallick (the distance coach and head cross country coach) and Coach Cusack makes all our success even more special because I know how much their teams mean to each one of them. They are special coaches, and they help develop special athletes and teams.”
Mugeche holds the Blue Springs all-time records in the 1,600 (4:12.87 at the Gary Parker Invitational in 2014) and the 3,200 (8:58.87 at a meet in Arcadia, Calif., April 12 of this year). The 3,200 time at Arcadia is the second best in Eastern Jackson County history, trailing only former Olympian and University of Wisconsin standout Matt Tegenkamp of Lee's Summit. His 1,600 time at the Gary Parker Invitational is the third best in area history, trailing only Tegenkamp and Nick Adams of Lee's Summit.
“He went out and got better and better and better as the season went along,” Cusack said. “He is such a great competitor and such a great athlete, but he’s an even better young man.
“My parents came to a meet, and there’s Stephen over talking with them. My brother Mike is an official from Columbia, Mo., and he worked the Gary Parker Invitational. He wanted to talk with Stephen and he told me what a great kid he is.
“And other coaches – other coaches are always coming up and asking how Stephen is doing. He always has that great smile on his face, he’s always congratulating the competition – they don’t get more special that Stephen Mugeche.”
Gallick, who watched Mugeche finished second at state in the 2013 state cross country competition, agrees.
“The kid is amazing, just amazing,” Gallick said. “The way he handles himself. He’s so down to earth. He’s one of those kids who makes you feel better by just being around him.
“And he is a real competitor. I think it’s interesting, because so many great cross country runners don’t go out for track, but I think Stephen is even better in track, which is a rarity.
“You know that whatever sport he is competing in, he’s going to give you all he’s got. That’s the mark of a great competitor.”