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
|1. Caldwell, Ohio||Undefeated National Champions|
|2. Trinity, Kentucky||Kentucky State Champions|
|3. Arroyo, California||California State Champions|
|4. Gallup, New Mexico||Undefeated New Mexico State Champions|
|5. Cincinnati Elder, Ohio||Ohio State Champions (Large School)|
|6. Bellarmine, California||California #2 Team|
|7. Valparaiso, Indiana||Indiana State Champions|
|8. Blanchet, Washington||Washington State Champions|
|9. Casa Roble, California||California #3 Team|
|10. York, Illinois||Illinois State Champions|
|11. Rockford, Illinois||Illinois #2 Team|
|12. Flathead Montana||Montana State Champions|
|13. Phoenix Trevor, Arizona||Arizona State Champions|
|14. Christian Brothers, New Jersey||New Jersey Meet of Champions|
|15. Carmel, Indiana||Indiana #2 Team|
|16. Leto, Florida||Florida State Champions|
|17. Bend, Oregon||Oregon State Champions|
|18. Conroe McCullough, Texas||Texas State Champions|
|19. Cincinnati Anderson, Ohio||Ohio #3 Team (tie)|
|19. LaSalle, Ohio||Ohio #3 Team (tie)|
1. Caldwell, Ohio: National Champions
No small school in the country has had as much of an impact on U.S. distance running as the Redskins from Caldwell, Standing proud with a population of 1,956 few would believe what greatness would occur during the mid-1980's for prep cross country. Completing the 1985 season with a perfect 136-0 season dual meet record 1986 would shape up to be something truly remarkable.
Led by Ohio coaching legend Ron Martin, the Redskin's tore through the '86 season with a vengeance in an almost seek and destroy mentality. Ron Martin, who had a career coaching record of 1,195 wins to 186 losses through the 1986 season is the most dominant program in Ohio State history. Beginning in 1985 and extending through 1992 Caldwell would claim eight straight state championships. None perhaps as impressive as the sheer dominance of the 1986 season. Caldwell is also one of only four teams in U.S. history to produce two seperate three time state cross country champions. Fitting as it would be the 1986 team would be led by senior Tony Carna who is one of those 3-peat winners. Coaching since 1975 this would be Ron Martin's final season at the helm of the Redskin's. During that 11 year stretch he would hold a 90% winning percentage.
As mentioned the Redskin's entered the 1986 season following a dominant and undefeated 1985 campaign. Before we jump into this teams meet information some statistical data needs to be addressed. Caldwell had four runners in the top 10 at the state championships. In the Ohio dual meet scoring format they set a state record with 137-0 record. Finally, at the 1986 Ohio State Championships Caldwell scored a state record low 26 points over a very difficult Scioto Downs course.
|Name of Athlete||Personal Best (5000 meters)|
|Newcomerstown Invitational||Won with 24 points|
|Akron Firestone Invitational||Won with 27 points|
|Fort Frye Invitational||Won with 15 points|
|Tiffin Invitational||Won with 29 points over 21 teams|
|Waterford-Belpre Tri-meet||Won with 15 points|
|Brookville Invitational||Won with 25 points|
|Newcomerstown duel||Won with 15 points|
|Malone College Invitational||Won with 67 points over 30 teams|
|Skyvue Duel||Won with 15 points|
|Coaches Classic||Won with 30 points|
|Zanesville Invitational||Won with 16 points|
|PVC Invitational||Won with 15 points|
|District Championships||Won with 16 points|
|Region Championships||Won with 19 points|
|Ohio State Championships||Won with 26 points|
The highlight of the 1986 season came at the Ohio Super-Meet Tiffin Invitational. Moving up from the small school division Coach Ron Martin entered his team into the Large School Division. Wanting to see just how dominant his team was Marton would not be disappointed. Led by individual standout Tony Carna's individual winner the Redskin's scored a low 29 points. More impressive was the dominance of Caldwell, they outdistanced Large School powerhouse and Nat#5 Cincinnati Elder by a whopping 52 points (29-81). Cincinnati Elder, who struggled to put together consistency was a tough team whom scored an early season victory of Nat#2 Trinity. It would seem no team had the answer for Caldwell. Also, at the Malone Invitational Tony Carna ran neck and neck with Bob Kennedy losing narrowly in the final mile 16:02-16:15.
|Coach Name||Years||Overall Record||Winning Percentage|
Current Caldwell Coach Dugan Hill, whom took over the program in 1987 following Ron Martin's move to Tiffin University said the following regarding the great Caldwell Program.
“Well we didn’t start XC until 1971. I was actually a runner on that 1973 team. Next year is the 40th Anniversary of the Program and this will be a great defining moment. I guess our secret to success has been that we have only had four coaches in almost 40 years and I was at the very beginning as a runner. Ron Martin helped out in the 1980s and now is coaching at Tiffin University” “The kids came from good families, and I really think that their solid background helped them to know how to work hard and do what we asked them to do” “We would have them run 8 miles of workouts per day, about 50-60 miles per week. We also had a summer Mile club like a lot of the other top programs, ours is 60 days long so they put in between 500-600 miles” “I think being on that first state title team for the school helped out tremendously, I don’t have them do anything that I didn’t have to do. Now I cannot run as much due to knee surgeries, but I still get on the bike and challenge them” I guess what we have done has worked, in almost 40 years our winning percentage is 80% and you know those years in the late 80s where we were undefeated (85-88) helped out”. “Tony Carna was one of the few kids I knew that started young, he began with his father in the 4th grade, and by the 5th grade put in 500 miles in 50 days! He had this little tiny loop that he just did over and over because his dad wanted to keep him close by. In Junior High he ran a 4:50 mile and as a Freshman a 9:30 full two mile. He ended up doing very well winning three straight state titles and going off to Michigan to be an All-American placing I think 19th in the Nation for Cross Country”
2. Trinity, Kentucky
In 1986 one team came one win away from claiming a share of the National Championship. Completing the 1985 season at #11 it was clear that the 1986 team would be more dominant. As with most programs this amazing team began the season slowly and picked up steam. The only blemish on the Trinity team was when they travelled to the Louisville Invitational. In that race, the third meet of the season Trinity faltered narrowly losing to Nat#5 Cincinnati Elder. It should be noted that Cincinnati Elder competed each week against a nationally ranked program. In what proved to be a wake-up, Trinity would go on to make up for the loss with a string of impressive victories. At the state championships Trinity scored a state record 20 team points. This team was coached by Rich Rostel, one of the greatest Kentucky coaches in history.
|Tiger Run Invitational||Won with 53 points|
|Shelby County Invitational||Won with 45 points|
|Louisville Invitational||2nd to Nat#5 Cincinnati Elder (36-46)|
|Franklin County Invitational||Won with 15 points|
|Lexington Catholic Invitational||Won with 64 points; beat Nat#19 Cincinnati Anderson|
|Capital View Classic||Won with 32 points|
|Trinity Invitational||Won with 15 points|
|Pulaski County Invitational||Won with 59 points|
|Catholic State Championships||Won with 15 points|
|Region Championships||Won with 20 points|
|Kentucky State Championships||Won with 20 points|
|John Michaels||1st Place|
|Mike Esterle||2nd Place|
|Dale Price||4th Place|
|Binky Kelly||5th Place|
|Howard Shoaf||8th Place|
|Jon Dye||9th Place|
|Eric From||38th Place|