Forget about the medals, the personal best times or the accolades that made the 57th annual Bill Summa Relays so special for the Blue Springs High School boys track and field team.
When senior sprinter Xavier Hall – the Wildcats’ “X-Factor” – thinks back on the meet his team dominated, he’s going to remember a smiling teammate.
“We’re a family,” said Hall, who won the 110-meter (15.25 seconds) and 300 (39.53) hurdles at the relays last Thursday, “and man, it showed after I set that PR (in the 300 hurdles). I look up and (teammate) Victor Mugeche (one of the premier distance runners in the Midwest, who is out with a hip injury) is all smiles.
“He had the biggest smile! One of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen, and that’s what I’m going to remember about the meet – Victor’s smile, competing with my Blue Springs track family – having success. It’s all good when you’re a part of a family, and our track family is so special.”
Hall has become one of the premier hurdlers in the state, and one day wants to take his knowledge of the craft to help other young hurdlers become champions.
“I definitely want to coach one day, because I have worked with some great coaches over the years,” Hall said. “Hurdling is such a technical sport, and I’ll watch video of me hurdling and I’ll jump on YouTube and watch the great hurdlers to see what they do.
“It didn’t always come easy for me. Back in seventh and eighth grade I thought about giving it up. But my brother Derwin (a former Wildcats track standout) convinced me to keep working. I don’t know if I would be where I am today without his encouragement.
“I just want to get better, want to help this team win another state championship and enjoy every minute of my senior year.”
The Wildcats have won all three meets they have appeared in this year and are zeroing in on their second consecutive state championship and third in the past four years.
At the Summa Relays, they won eight gold medals – with Hall winning the 110 and 300 hurdles. Blue Springs finished with 174 points to easily outdistance second-place Grandview’s 112.
“It was a great night against some great competition,” said Hall, who has not lost a hurdling event this season. “What’s even more important is that a lot of guys, some new, young guys, got to compete tonight and see what it means to be a part of this family – this great, Wildcat track and field family.”
Those are the type of comments that coach Joe Cusack loves to hear from Hall and the other members of his team.
“X has become a real leader on this team and I know he’s going to be a great coach someday because he pays attention to all the little details that go into being a great hurdler,” Cusack said. “You know, it wasn’t always smooth for him. He had to overcome some hurdles – no pun intended – but he continued to work hard, especially in the offseason.
“And his teammates paid attention to his work ethic, and it made them better performers because they wanted to go out and work as hard as X. And that’s what a coach loves to see – hard work and dedication, and that love of the sport and your teammates.
“We have created a family atmosphere here at Blue Springs, and it’s not just among the boys team. Coach (Jennifer) Reeder’s girls team is an important part of our family. When the boys are competing, the girls are over they supporting them. And likewise, for the boys supporting the girls.
“And we have our great leaders like X, who goes out and supports all his teammates while exuding that confidence – confidence, not cockiness or anything close to it – that makes him such a special young man.”
Hall is excited about the Wildcats’ next meet, which takes place in his own backyard.
The Gary Parker Invitational – which is scheduled for Friday at Blue Springs High School and is named after the former track and field coach Cusack replaced 11 years ago – is one of the premier meets of the regular season.
“It’s almost like a mini-state championship,” Hall said. “It’s our meet, it’s named after Coach Parker and we want to defend our home and not let anyone come in here and get a victory. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing this season, we should be fine. I can’t wait, and neither can the other guys on the team.”