Blue Springs High School cross country coach Frank Gallick watched intently as his runners crossed the finish line early Saturday morning at the Class 4 District 7 championships at Pioneer Ridge Middle School in Independence.
He, and a group of other Wildcat coaches, began calculating the team totals to see if they had found a way to top defending state champion Rockhurst.
With Victory Mugeche and Oaklee Hauschild finishing 1-2 in one of the toughest district meets in the state, and five other Wildcats finishing in the top 22, Blue Springs edged Rockhurst 34 to 37.
“That’s huge,” said Gallick, whose team was third last year despite Mugeche winning the meet as a junior in 2016. “We know what to expect from Victor and Oaklee – but what helped us get this championship was Morgan (Cauveren) getting fifth (16:35.23), Gabe (McClain) getting eighth and Armani (Redes, 18th), Brock (Wooderson, 21st) and Jonah (Loewe, 22nd) all finishing in the top 25.
“They ran pretty much as a group and our depth and great individual showing helped the team win the championship. I am so proud of this group, I really am.”
In what has become a familiar sight, Mugeche had no one close to him when he crossed the finish line in 15 minutes, 36.08 seconds. His teammate, Hauschild, finished in 16:00.07.
“In my mind, I just tried to stay focused,” said Mugeche, who will join his brother Stephen and run at the University of Missouri next year. “Even though there wasn’t really a challenge from another runner, I wanted to run as fast as I could because I wanted to make sure I was first to help our team score as many points as possible.”
When asked about winning back to back titles, he paused for a moment.
“Let’s see,” Mugeche said, “that’s right – I did win this meet last year. I had to think about that for a minute. I really don’t care about any of the individual recognition. We had one goal today and we achieved it – and that was to beat Rockhurst, the defending state champion.
“This was a total team effort, and I am so proud of my team.”
Following the race, during the awards ceremony, one of the 25-mph winds that buffeted the course throughout the morning, swept all the medals and awards off the table during the presentation.
As they flew across the football field, one of the competitors quipped, “That’s OK, let Victor go get them.”
That elicited a chuckle from Mugeche and his teammates, as they thought about a Flash-like Mugeche collecting the wind-blow items in the blink of an eye.
“I heard that comment,” Mugeche said, “that was pretty cool. It made me laugh.”
Following Blue Springs and Rockhurst were Lee’s Summit North, 83, and Blue Springs South, 116. The top four teams and 30 runners advance to next week’s sectional meet at Kearney.
Zachary (sixth, 16:35.38) and Dillon Grover (13th, 17:02.97) led the way for Blue Springs South.
Matt (10th, 16:50.44) and Drew Reis (11th, 16:53.57) paced Lee’s Summit North.
Grain Valley will send Royce Fisher (16th, 17:20.22) and Collin Clemens (26th, 17:49.27) to sectionals, while Michael Reddick was the lone Fort Osage runner (25th, 17:47.88) to advance.