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Examiner
  • Belete keeps focus on team accomplishments during standout season

  • It says a lot about Simon Belete that the most disappointing moment of his senior season ultimately filled his coach with pride.

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  • It says a lot about Simon Belete that the most disappointing moment of his senior season ultimately filled his coach with pride.
    Moments after capturing the individual Class 4 state championship, the Blue Springs standout found out that the Wildcats had fallen just three points short of winning the team title. Immediately, Belete’s joyous demeanor soured. He found an isolated spot near the Wildcats’ tent, slumped to the ground and his eyes quickly grew misty.
    Personal accomplishments? Belete took home plenty during a year in which he won conference, district, sectional and state championships and was named The Examiner’s male Cross Country Runner of the Year. But Belete’s focus was always on the team.
    “I’ve shared that story with a lot of guys that I’ve coached with,” Blue Springs coach Frank Gallick said. “For somebody to be more disappointed than excited at the result in that situation kind of shows what a team player he was. He wanted the team title more than he wanted his own individual one.”
    Even now, nearly a month and a half after the state meet, Belete struggles accepting second place. After all, he was the guy who sat the team down last spring and told them straight up that they should expect a state crown come November.
    “Looking at our state plaque that says second place, it’s like, wow, we were so close,” Belete said. “And I don’t think (the disappointment) is ever just going to go away. I felt like this was a state championship team.”
    But Belete also doesn’t let that final disappointment overshadow an otherwise dream season. He still gushes when he talks about the races his teammates Stephen Mugeche (fourth place) and James Barnett (10th) ran on the state course.
    And Gallick still sounds in awe when he describes Belete’s last race, when he led from start to finish in clocking a time of 15 minutes, 48.16 seconds and became just the second runner in program history to bag a state title.
    That was the story of Belete’s senior year. He took the initiative to get the rest of the squad thinking about a championship months before the first practice, and he did everything he could to make sure it never wavered.
    “They talk about a quarterback being the coach on the field and the point guard being a coach on the court,” Gallick said. “Well, Simon was the coach of this sport.”
    Gallick said Belete’s always been one of the squad’s leaders, but in years past he was always respectful of the team’s seniors and careful not to overstep his bounds.
    But after closing his junior season with a fifth-place state finish, it was time for Belete to emerge as the program’s top dog.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I felt like I was the guy with the big goals,” Belete said. “I felt like I was the guy who wanted to win state as a team and it was my job to convince everyone else that it was possible.”
    Belete said initially it took some goading to get everyone else thinking as big as him. Understandable considering this was a team that won only one other meet – the Blue Springs Invitational – in the previous three years.
    Then the Cats took first at the Rim Rock Farm Classic at the University of Kansas. From there, everyone was on board.
    “It’s a different experience when you go to a meet and you win it as a team,” Belete said. “It was something we’d only experienced at one meet – our home meet – every year.
    “So to go to KU and win, that was elating. It was crazy. Like, ‘Our team’s come this far guys, just keep it going.’”
    The Cats ended up notching first-place finishes in every pre-state race except for a sixth-place tally in the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis – one of the top prep races in the nation. Belete, after not winning a single race his first three years, came in tops in every meet except for a third-place mark at Rim Rock and fifth-place finish at Roy Griak.
    No, Blue Springs didn’t capture that elusive state title. But the Cats, and especially Belete, left a lasting mark on the program and gave their coach a season he won’t ever forget.
    “I put it more in perspective that it was a great accomplishment,” Gallick said. “We went from eighth last year to second this year and probably had about as big a movement as anybody in the state. To be that close is a little disappointing, but it’s still a sweet thing to have a second-place trophy.”
     
     

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