• Wildcat takes to running

  • When Stephen Mugeche was a first grader at Heber Hunt Elementary School in Sedalia, Mo., he was a baseball guy.

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  • When Stephen Mugeche was a first grader at Heber Hunt Elementary School in Sedalia, Mo., he was a baseball guy.
    “I wanted to play baseball and be the fastest kid in the school,” said Mugeche, who is now one of the premier distance runners in the state as a sophomore at Blue Springs High School. “Then, we started running the mile in gym class for those fitness tests and I always beat everyone, so I began to think about running longer races like the mile. I didn't even know about cross country until my family moved to Blue Springs and I attended Lucy Franklin Elementary School.
    “I found out that you could run cross country in high school, and the 1,600 (meters) and 3,200 and events like that. I got pretty excited.”
    So did Blue Springs cross country coach Frank Gallick and track and field coach Joe Cusack, as Mugeche helped the Wildcats claim their second consecutive Suburban Big Six Conference track and field title Tuesday night at Lee's Summit High School.
    Mugeche provided 25 of those points with first place finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, a fourth in the 800 and he was part of the fourth-place 3,200 relay. As a result, Mugeche was named the winner of the Golden Shoe Award, which goes to the competitor who scores the most points for his team.
    “Winning the Golden Shoe Award was great,” the soft-spoken Mugeche said, “but helping the team win conference two years in a row was even better. This is a great team with great coaches and athletes. It's fun to be around them every day. It makes you want to train and work that much harder.”
    Following Tuesday's big win, Mugeche praised his coaches and teammates.
    “I thought it was great when Stephen said … that he was happy to contribute to a conference championship for me,” Cusack said, “but I know how important Coach Gallick has been to his development.
    “Stephen is a wonderful cross country runner. He was fourth at state as a sophomore and he's going to get better and better in the upcoming years. Last year, as a freshman, he was seventh in the 3,200 at state and we're looking for big things from him this year at state.”
    Mugeche led Wildcat clean sweeps in the 1,600 and 3,200 at conference, as teammates Simon Belete and James Barnett took second and third, respectively.
    “Simon and James are seniors who are always pushing me, making me better,” Mugeche said. “To have been a part of two conference championships and to have competed with Simon and James my freshman and sophomore years has been special.
    “And there are times when I think about how special the future is going to be. I want to become a great distance runner. I want to compete in the Olympics some day, and by working hard now, I think that dream can become a reality.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Mugeche conducted this interview following a run in Friday's snow and slush mix with the temperature dropping near the freezing point.
    “Every day I don't practice, I think that I let myself and my team down,” Mugeche said. “So I will be out there working as hard, or harder, than anyone else I compete with or against. That is how I hope to make my dreams come true.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC

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