XC Legacy: 1983 National XC Rankings

1982<<<    >>>1984


If you have ever been a part of a state championship team you know the feeling of accomplishment accompanied with victory. Each year there come very special programs across the country that step beyond simply winning and into a realm of total domination. It is in these moments of triumph that the questions of team's "greatness" are raised. Extraordinary accomplishments that warrant recognition and validation to set in stone once and for all, their XC Legacy. 


(Recap) In 2004 Nike changed the face of prep cross country with the implementation of Nike Team Nationals. After decades the hopes and dreams of avid cross fans were finally realized. Hosted by Nike, NTN allowed the top XC programs in the nation to compete in one true national championship race at Portland Meadows. Many state associations do not allow prep teams to travel so teams register as clubs in order to compete in this post season event.


The pinnacle event for the prep cross country team is earning a berth to Nike Cross Nationals. The goal of every prep team is to hoist the NXN National Championship Trophy, proclaiming the true national champions. The honor and prestige of traversing the Portland Meadows course as team victor welcomes the winning team into an elite fraternity of champions that stretches back three decades.


Nike Cross Nationals and all that the event represents to the sport of cross country undeniably traces its roots, inception, and excitement to one moment and one man over three decades ago. In 1973 New York Times free-lance reporter Marc Bloom looked across the nation and saw a lack in comprehensive coverage for prep cross country and came up with a revolutionary idea. An idea that would pump new life and energy into high school cross country. The single most profound event prior to the emergence of Nike Cross Nationals three decades later, The Harrier Magazine!


In 1974 Marc Bloom developed and implemented a network for prep cross country on a national scale by releasing detailed summaries of every state. The culminating event for The Harrier magazine was the release of the Harrier Top-50 High School All-Americans.


The winds of change came in 1976 when Harrier released the first national team rankings in US history. A new buzz and excitement spread throughout the nation as top programs sought fervently to be crowned National Champions by The Harrier magazine. Team rankings were again released in 1977, following the 1977 season The Harrier was discontinued until being resurrected by Bloom in 1989. XC Legacy has sought to bridge the gap from that final 1977 season until the 1989 season.


The significance of those four seasons from 74’-77’ in the scope of prep cross country cannot be understated. Without the efforts of Marc Bloom to network and harness the energy that is prep cross country there would have not been a platform for Nike Cross Nationals.


The Harrier 1989 rankings came at the perfect moment and for a decade teams from the four corners of the nation sought the coveted Harrier National Championship. It was this energy, and this excitement that inspired the creation of the Nike Cross Nationals…the nation’s true prep team championship.


Perhaps now a spotlight can rest on those teams who deserve recognition for superior national performances.


XCLegacy BIG-15 National Rankings

by Aron & David Taylor 

Place Team/State Season Accomplishments
1 Largo, Florida (Brent Haley) Undefeated National Champions
1 Mandan, North Dakota (Leon House) Undefeated National Champions
3 Highland, Idaho (Bob Conley) State Champions
4 Valparaiso, Indiana State Champions
5 Barstow, California CIF SS Champions
6 North Hunterdon, New Jersey New Jersey Meet of Champions
7 El Paso, Texas State Champions
8 Jesuit, California State #2
9 Wilson, Oregon State AAA Champions
10 Tuba City, Arizona State 4A Champions
11 York, Illinois State Champions
12 Blanchet, Washington State Champions
13 Grand Forks Red River, North Dakota State #2
14 Gallup, New Mexico State Champions
15 Clarence, New York New York Federation Champions


1. Largo, Florida: National Champions (tie)


Few programs in the annuals of cross country history have produced as dominant a season as the '83 Largo team. Using shear dominance Largo decimated an entire state, often making a mockery of course records along the way. Led by the 1976 National Coach of the Year and Southern U.S. Legend Brent Haley; Largo would produce one of the greatest and most dominating programs in U.S. history. Haley will go down as one of the greatest prep cross country coaches in national history.


Following the 1983 Florida State Cross Country Championships the St. Petersburg times wrote a story about the Largo team, Dec 14, 1983, "There's been talk that this years Largo High School cross-country team was the best in the nation" (Read the Article). The '83 Packers are regarded as the greatest prep cross country team in Florida history. Running most of the season over flat three mile courses the difference maker for Largo was the sheer dominance through which they Tampabay.comswept through the season. (image: Tampabay.com) Fitting it is that now, after all these years, Largo has been declared in fact National Champions.


Largo set every meet record up to the state meet. It should be noted that the top four runners for Largo were superior to the individual state champion all season long. Often running a low 20 second spread from 1-5 it was common place to score a perfect 15 or a low 26 points, even in 30 team invitationals. For example, the FSU Invitational which featured the hilliest course of the season. This would be the only 5000 meter course the Packers would compete on the entire season as most coruses were 3-miles in length. Featuring 30 teams, Largo dominated placing all five scorers in the top 12 with the entire team sub 16 minutes. Scoring 26 points, a meet record and averaging 15:28 for 5K Largo set the bar that they were the team to beat not only in Florida, but nationally.


Florida State University Invitational
Athlete Name Athlete Place Time/Mark (5000 Meters)
Chris Palmer 1st 15:03
Kurt Backman 3rd 15:20
Karl Moeller 4th 15:21
John Brennan 8th 15:43
Matt Farnen 12th 15:53

The Road to The State Championships


At the District Championships Largo had one goal in mind, a perfect score. After setting every meet record and dominating throughout the season it was time for Largo to demonstrate just how good they truly were. Over the 3-mile course the top two runners, Palmer and Backman, decided to run together. Showing the depth of Largo, Tim Marion charged onto the varsity team as the #4 runner. Their team goal was achieved as the packer's set the meet record with a perfect score of 15 points.


District Championships
Athlete Name Athlete Place Time/Mark (3-Miles)
Chris Palmer 1st 14:47
Kurt Backman 2nd 14:47
Karl Moeller 3rd 14:55
Tim Marion 4th 15:20
John Brennan 5th 15:23


After the performance at the District Championships, Largo wanted to score another perfect 15 points at the Conference Championships. The only problem was that there were several runners from other schools equal to their number five varsity scorer. Showing true team solidarity, over the same course as the District meet, the team decided to run together to help ensure the team would sweep the top five places. Following the meet Coach Haley proclaimed, "I don't think any team in the country has four guys better than those four guys," in reference to his top four runners Backman, Brennan, Moeller, and Palmer. (Read the Article)




Conference Championships
Athlete Name Athlete Place Time/Mark (3-Miles)
Chris Palmer 1st 15:26
Kurt Backman 1st 15:26
Karl Moeller 1st 15:26
Tim Marion 1st 15:26
John Brennan 1st 15:26

At the Region Championships it was again Largo dominating with a meet record 17 team points. Dominating by over 60 points over the second place team. With the top three deciding to run together they claimed another step towards history.


Region Championships
Athlete Name Athlete Place Time/Mark (3-Miles)
Chris Palmer 1st 15:08
Kurt Backman 2nd 15:09
Karl Moeller 3rd 15:09
John Brennan 4th 15:25
Matt Farnen 6th 15:28

1. Mandan, North Dakota: National Champions (tie)


States like North Dakota are not accustomed to gaining the recognition of teams from other areas of the country. Frigid cold and extreme hot temperatures. North Dakota offers some of the most difficult 5000 meter courses in the country. Providing few cross country teams little to get excited about. No Detweiller Park, No Mt. Sac, nothing but up and down brutal courses. It is safe to proclaim North Dakota is an inhospitable environment for prep cross country runners.


All this would change in 1983 as Leon House would preform the improbable with a team from Mandan, North Dakota. For years cross country rankings have been determined by who runs the fastest times and total team times. Often, this ranking mentality leads to extreme advantages to teams from coastal and midwest states and warmer climates where courses are flatter. To often, dominant programs in states with trecherous courses and unpredictable weather are overlooked and underappreciated in national rankings. Mandan cross country will go down in the annuals of prep cross country history as the first team from an outlying state to prove once and for all team strength and team depth are not determined simply by fast times, especially in states such as North Dakota. In Illinois they have the Long Green Line, but in North Dakota there is the Long Black Line.


At the state cross country championships Dave Meuchel, Darrin Boehm, and Gary Schafer held the long black line together to give Mandan a repeat state championship and 21 meet win streak



Mandan Season Record (The Long Black Line)
Bismarck-Quad Results Won with 24 Points
Valley City Invitational          (Story#2) Won with 24 Points
Minot Invitational    (Story#2) Won with 60 Points
Mandan Invitational Won with 27 Points
Dickinson Invitational Won with 35 Points
Quadangular Meet Won with 20 Points
Western Dakota Association Championships Won with 27 Points
State Championships Won with 61 Points


Western Dakota Association Championships
Athlete Name Athlete Place Tim/Mark (5000 Meters)
David Meuchel 1st 15:03
Darrin Boehm 2nd 15:07
Gary Schafer 3rd 15:21
Mark Unterseher 4th 15:27
Jim Skjod 17th 15:57

Culminating a remarkable season Mandan capped it's 21st consecutive meet win streak with a State Championship. We were fortunate enough to be able to track down ace runner Darrin Boehm for an interview of this very special team. As he will state, the courses were very difficult. In the few instances they were able to race on flat and fast courses few teams in the nation could match their strength. At the state championships the top three runners got lost as the course was poorly marked confusing alot of competitors resulting in slower times. Even though they lost considerable ground, as they had all season long Mandan rebounded to still win the state championship. Read Coach Leon House comments that it was the worst run state meet he had ever been too, READ ARTICLE


State Championships (Top 3 went wrong way)
Athlete Name Athlete Place Tim/Mark (5000 Meters)
David Meuchel 4th 16:13.5
Darrin Boehm 5th 16:14.1
Gary Schafer 6th 16:14.9
Mark Unterseher 18th 16:37.3
Jim Skjod    


An Interview with Darrin Boehm:


A top runner, Darrin Boehm finished the 1983 season as Mandan's 2nd runner, only .6 seconds behind Mandanhigh’s top runner.  Remarkably, at State the top three runners for Mandan High were only separated by a mere 1.4 seconds and finished 4th, 5th, and 6th despite getting lost on an unmarked course which has been remarked by the North Dakota Activities Association and the Mandan High Coach Leon House as the worst ran state meet in State History.  What is for sure is that they overcame a season of adversity and stood ready as a team when their moment of opportunity came against the Eastern North Dakota undefeated team of Grand Forks Red River, their toughest competition in their remarkable streak.  Certainly what stands out most about the season are their flat course times over the 5000 meter distance at the Western Dakota Championships in which the top 5 placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 17th. Boehm would go on to lead Mandan through the 1984 season amassing a 31 meet winning streak which ended at the 1984 State Meet, he placed 2nd


Do you believe your 83 Mandanteam was the greatest in ND History?



Yes, ever since I ran, I have kept contact and no team since has been as good as we were.


Feeling about the streak?


We had the attitude that winning streaks put pressure on the opponent, we instead felt pressure to win, but an attitude to inflict greater pressure on other teams. It worked for three years until we were beat in 1984 at the state meet which was postponed a week because of a blizzard. Hard to imagine opening the season with a meet near 100 degrees and finishing a season with a blizzard.We were hyped and didn’t care about the weather, we were ready to run and had a 31 meet streak and we knew we would win again.  Unfortunately the meet was postponed a week and our sophomores crumbled, if it had not been changed we would have won, but they couldn’t maintain the hype.  It was the first postponed meet we ever had and it was a big drop in motivation and we got caught.


What were your team goals?


Keep the streak alive was our motto, all the way to the state meet undefeated was the only goal.


Did you ever wonder how good you were nationally?


Never thought about it, coach kept us focused on meet by meet.  We talked about undefeated and state non stop. It was always about us and what we could do.  We didn’t care about any other team just what was before us week by week.  I don’t think many others would have favored well against our mentality, one meet we had three of our top five get injured in the race and somehow we won because our other runners stepped up and upheld their end of the deal, we were a team and we would win as a team regardless of our top runners, that was our attitude, everyone had a chance to support.


What do you think about your team’s odds at a National Championship?


I think they are good because of our toughness and ability to run hill courses so well. We ran very fast on flats, probably faster than anyone, but we had better results on hill courses and really beat teams down. I mean, we had more brutal workouts in high school than I ever had in college, Coach House knew his stuff and before him Mandanwas nothing on the scene and he took us to that streak, hard work is team work and that’s what we were.


One quote to sum up your 83 experience?


I just remember the competition in practice, we interchanged so much and it didn’t matter so long as we won as a group.  Now I am a coach and now I can see that at that time we only cared about winning as a team in a sport that a lot of people focus on the individual portion. Much greater sacrifices were made by our 6-10 runners than our 1-5.  There were no individuals, everyone wanted to be a part of that team, and it was a privilege just to be a part of that team. Everyone upheld their end of the deal.


“This would matter a lot to Mandan High School” 


3. Highland, Idaho


Within Idaho, no other cross country coach has had such an impact and a lasting legacy than Bob Conley. Coaching the Highland High Rams, Conley produced the greatest cross country dynasty in Idaho State history. In 1981, Conley won his first-ever Class A State Championship. Over the next two years Conley's teams would go undefeated culminating in a 3rd straight state championship in the 1983 season. His team was the only team to defeat the powerhouse Utah squad Murray, Utah from '81-'83.


The 1983 season would go down as the most special for Conley as his team swept through the season undefeated breaking every meet record. Competing on some of the most difficult 5000 meter courses in the country the Highland squad did not benefit from a flat course. But we know the team was stacked, featuring national phenoms Marty Strochein and Rob Rene. Conley spoke about the difficulty of the courses, "The courses were often very hilly, and the weather that year was not the best. I think if we could have run on a flat course under ideal conditions we would have had five guys under 16 minutes for 5000 meters," "We went undefeated, it was our third year in a row. Murray came up to our home invitational and we beat them pretty badly. We had beat them every year since 1981." At the State Championships Highland swept into the record books with the lowest team score in history scoring 29 points.





Idaho State Championships
Athlete Name Athlete Place Tim/Mark (5000 Meters)
Rob Rene (10) 4th 16:33
Marty Strochein (11) 5th 16:36
Wayne Gardiner 6th 16:41
Allen Blad 8th 16:46
Todd Musser 10th 16:54