For a long time, Blue Springs head boys cross country coach Frank Gallick has talked about getting a tattoo.

He even had the idea when he was a coach at Raytown High School. But something had to happen to get some ink on the veteran coach – he needed to coach a state championship team.

That finally happened last season when the Victor Mugeche-led Wildcats took the Class 4 state title, edging West Plains 82-93 at the Missouri High School Cross Country Championships in Jefferson City.

Gallick finally got the tattoo he’s sought for many years. On the back of his left calf is a drawing of Missouri – made up of the school colors of purple and gold. It read, “Blue Springs 2017 XC State Champs.”

“I told the guys I would get one if we won,” Gallick said. “These guys came through. It took me a couple of months to get the design, but it was well worth it.”

Of course Gallick has many pictures from that day, too.

“There’s nothing like a podium picture and seeing everyone smiling,” he said. “When we stood up and got the trophy, every one of the guys were smiling. It just gives me a nice warm feeling every time I look at it. It’s priceless.”

One returning runner, Gabe McClain, has many pictures of his own that captured that special moment.

“We all have pics of us going around and hugging each other,” McClain said. “I’ve got a lot of pictures on my phone from (state), with Coach Gallick and everyone.”

Blue Springs graduated four runners from last year’s state championship team, including individual champ Mugeche and all-state finishers Oaklee Hauschild (seventh) and Morgan Cauveren (20th). This year, the Wildcats return last season’s No. 4 runner McClain and No. 7 Brock Wooderson, a sophomore, who took 98th at state a year ago.

“You can’t replace guys like that,” Gallick said of Mugeche and Hauschild, who are now running for the University of Missouri. “They were two of the best we had. You get used to see guys up front like that, so our guys have to adjust.”

McClain will be the team’s No. 1 runner this year and hopes to earn all-state honors in his senior year after falling just three spots out of the top 25 last season with a 28th-place finish.

“I don’t want to just be 23rd or something like that,” said McClain, who finished with a personal record time of 16 minutes, 28.5 seconds at state. “I want to get as high as I can, maybe even first.”

Added Gallick: “His training has gone really well and he’s looked good in practice. He’s a good team leader. I’ve been pleased with his work ethic.”

Joining him and Wooderson are senior Donnie Kennedy, junior Matthew Higgins, junior Ryan Cheluget and Gabe’s younger brother, Kevin McClain – all of whom were on the junior varsity squad in 2017.

“I think we’ll be better at the end of the season than we will at the beginning,” Gallick said. “We just have to get these guys some experience.”

But even with so many new runners, Gabe McClain said he feels the Wildcats can make the podium again in 2018.

“It’s definitely a rebuilding year, but we still have some goals,” McClain said. “We want to get our pack time down by 60 seconds and keep as close as we can together. Then we want to get podium again at state. That is our top goal.”