Victor Mugeche and Tori Findley, both Class 4 state champions, capped their brilliant prep careers by being named the Gatorade Missouri Cross Country Runners of the Year.
It is a first-time honor for Mugeche, a senior at Blue Springs High School who won the state championship and led the Wildcats to their first team title in 35 years, and the second consecutive award for Findley, a senior at Blue Springs South High School, who won the girls state championship.
“First of all, I think it’s really cool that both of the top runners in the state represent the Blue Springs School District,” South cross country coach Ryan Unruh said. “They have always had such a close relationship. For them to have the opportunity to share state titles and these awards is a special way to finish their amazing running careers. It is nice to see good things happen to good people.”
Blue Springs cross country coach Frank Gallick agreed.
“To have two outstanding and very successful runners from the same area is very special,” Gallick said. “Their senior year has been a perfect match with all of the success they’ve achieved. What a great representation of the community and they’re very good friends outside of the sport.”
Findley received word of her honor two weeks ago, while Mugeche’s award was announced earlier this week.
“I knew Tori got the award and I am so happy for her and proud of her,” Mugeche said, “and I’ve been checking the Gatorade website to see when the boys award would be announced. But I actually found out I won on Twitter – and it is so special. To have both the boys and girls winners from the Blue Springs community is really cool and we are close friends.
“We still have our senior track season, but this is the perfect way to end our high school cross country careers.”
Findley said she has been anticipating the boys honor, hoping Mugeche joined her in yet another winner’s circle.
“When I won it last year, I was very surprised,” Findley said. “And this year, I was hoping I’d win, but you never know. When I found out I’d won a second time, it was almost as special as winning the first time. And to have Victor win it too is just incredible. I don’t know if anyone but our families and coaches and teammates know how hard we work to have this kind of success. But we both work extremely hard.”
Unruh believes the Gatorade state honor is the ultimate award for a runner.
“I feel it is the highest honor you can win in any high school sport,” Unruh said. “It is not only a measure of athletic performance, but also academic success and community involvement. Out of the thousands of runners competing in the state of Missouri, to be chosen as the top in all of these areas, is a special honor. It is incredibly difficult to win. To do it twice is remarkable. Certainly deserved, but remarkable nonetheless. Fifty-one girls win this throughout the country, for Tori to be in this group is really neat.”
Added Gallick: “I think this is a big honor for BSHS and definitely for Victor. To be recognized on a national level for what an individual was able to accomplish from the entire state is a very special honor to the school and community. For Victor it adds an exclamation point to his outstanding season of accomplishments, an undefeated season, state individual champion, and a member of a team state title. I know those were his goals at the start of the season and he was able reach all of them.
“Victor has had such a huge impact on the program. He has worked so hard to earn everything he has achieved. From his freshman year to his senior year he has put in the time and the training. Just as importantly, he has worked with and motivated his teammates … to reach the level that brought the team a state championship.
“Coach Gary Parker (former Blue Springs track and cross country coach) told me, ‘There’s nothing like seeing a runner smiling up on the podium at the state meet.’ Well, it makes me smile every day when I look at the picture of the team with the first place trophy and all the guys smiling. Victor had a huge part in that happening. Also, his entire family has had a huge impact on the program. I feel so blessed to have them be a part of the program. I can’t thank his mom and dad enough for all the support they have given the program over the years. Also, I can’t forget about Stephen (Victor’s older brother now at the University of Missouri). He was a great example for Victor to follow and to look up to. I will forever be thankful for the Mugeche family.”
Both Mugeche and Findley have signed with Mizzou track and field and cross country teams, so they will remain together.