Enthusiasm abounds with Blue Springs head coach

Blue Springs boys track coach Joe Cusack sprinted down the hill on the east side of Lincoln University to congratulate a young man who had just completed the shot put.

“Great job!” Cusack said, pumping the young man’s arm while patting on the back with equal enthusiasm. “I mean it, you did a great job!”

It was a memorable scene, because Cusack wasn’t even congratulating his own athlete.

He was congratulating three-time state champion Brooks Mosier of Lee’s Summit West Saturday at the Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships.

“It means a lot when an opposing coach does something like that,” Mosier said.

That’s Joe Cusack, a man whose enthusiasm is boundless.

Oh, by the way, Cusack didn’t forget about Jordan Chrisman, his thrower who finished fourth.

“Way to go!” Cusack said, embracing Chrisman with the passion of a father hugging his son on graduation day. “I’m so proud of you.”

Chrisman was down and needed the hug.

“I wanted to come to state and really do something,” said Chrisman, who placed fourth with a throw of 55 feet, 10.25 inches, “and I just didn’t have it today.

“Then, Coach Cusack comes up and gives me that hug, and it really makes me feel good. I love the guy. All the guys on the track team would do anything for him.”

Cusack’s Wildcats totaled just nine points to finish in a tie for 27th place, but to visit with the veteran coach, you would have thought they’d won the state title.

“We came here and Jordan and Gus (Toca, who was fifth in the discus Friday) and we scored nine points,” Cusack said. “Nine points. Now, a lot of folks might not think that nine points are that many, especially for a Blue Springs team, but there are a lot of teams who came down here are wishing they would have scored nine points.”

The Wildcats outscored 27 teams at state with those nine points.

“I’m as proud of those guys as I have been of anyone I’ve coached,” Cusack said. “Gus is a senior, and gosh, we’re going to miss him. Jordan is a junior and he’s back next year – and he’s got the top throw of anyone coming back, so we’re looking for good things from him.”

Cusack then excused himself for a moment to go lay a hearty handshake and back slap on Lee’s Summit North’s Will Bruce, who finished sixth in the shot.

Chrisman looked on, and just smiled.

“That’s just coach,” Chrisman said. “He’s happy for anyone who has success. I think that’s one of the things that make him so special.”

n Talk about special, Grandview junior James White won the high jump with an effort of 7 feet, 2 inches. He came into the meet with a national best jump of 7-5.5.

Before each of his three failed attempts at 7-4, the entire standing-room-only crowd at Lincoln University stood and applauded in unison.

It’s just one of those special moments you never forget. The state high jump mark is 7-3, but James chose to go for his own state record on his final three attempts.

I’m betting he gets the record next year. By the way, that 7-5.5 jump qualified him for the U.S.  Olympic Trials for 2012.

n Two more of my favorite moments came when Blue Springs South freshman Samantha Nightingale stepped on the podium to receive her fifth-place 1,600 and eighth-place 800 medals and her classmate Dominique Wright had his second-place 200 medal placed around his neck.

The two first-time state medalists sported smiles that made me realize why I do what I do. We might not have had many qualifiers at this year’s state meet, but the kids who made it to Jeff City brought back the hardware.