Blue Springs High School senior Victor Mugeche didn’t exactly burst on the prep cross country scene as a freshman.

“Let’s see,” quipped Mugeche, whose older brother Stephen won state while Victor finished in 127th place in 2014, “I think I figured if I finished in 127th, there would be nowhere to go but up.”

He chuckled, waiting to see if anyone thought he was serious.

“It was a rocky freshman year,” he continued, “I had some injuries and just didn’t run that well. But after finishing in 127th place, I made a commitment to get better – much better.”

That commitment paid off as Mugeche placed seventh as a sophomore, second as a junior and first as a senior on the first-place Wildcats team.

For the second year in a row, Mugeche is The Examiner’s Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, joining his brother in earning the honor.

“It means so much to me to win this award,” Mugeche said, “especially since Stephen won it, and I was fortunate enough to win it last year.

“It’s interesting to look back at my running career. People ask if I ran in Stephen’s shadow when I was younger and I never felt like I did because it took me some time to find myself, to find out if running was for me.

“It was always Stephen’s sport, and he would encourage me to run when I was in middle school. He would clock me and push me, but I wasn’t that interested early on. Then, I got to high school and was on the team with Stephen and I took it much more seriously. It was amazing to work with Stephen and the other members of the cross country team.

“Like I said, I had some injuries, and didn’t do as well at state as I had hoped, but I was excited about the sport and committed to cross country and track.”

This past summer, Blue Springs cross country coach Frank Gallick pushed Mugeche to new limits, and the summer workout program paid huge dividends as Mugeche finished the season with a perfect record, the state title and was part of the first team championship in 35 years.

“Victor had an amazing season – he went undefeated and beat the state champion from Arkansas,” Gallick said. “Wins like that give you a lot of confidence. And Victor was a confident runner this season. I think people watch him run, and he makes it look so effortless, that they have no idea how many hours he will put in practicing.

“We added a lot of miles this summer and he really responded.”

He responded, but when he first saw his summer workout schedule, he was a bit stunned.

“I know what Coach Gallick was doing, he was preparing me for what we thought could be a special senior season,” Mugeche said. “But he added a lot of miles. On peak weeks, I was running 80 miles. In the morning I was running no less than 10 miles and I was running four at night.

“If I added some miles, I could take one day off during the week, but I didn’t take many days off. I worked as hard as I had ever worked and look how it all paid off.”