XC Legacy: 1984 National XC Rankings

1983<<<    >>>1985


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 



Team/ State Season Accomplishment
1 Highland, Idaho Undefeated National Champion
2 Conroe McCullough, Texas Undefeated Texas 5A State Champion
3 St. Paul VI, New Jersey Undefeated New Jersey Meet of Champions
4 Williston, North Dakota Undefeated North Dakota State Champion
5 Mandan, North Dakota North Dakota State Runner-up (31 meet streak ended)
6 Gallup, New Mexico Undefeated New Mexico State Champion
7 Portage, Indiana Indiana State Champion
8 York, Illinois Illinois State Champion
9 Lassen (Susanville), California Northern California Champions
10 Leto, Florida Florida State Champion
11 North Hunderton, New Jersey New Jersey Meet of Champions Runner-up
12 Thousand Oaks, California Mt. Sac Invitational Team Sweeps Champions
13 Carmel, Indiana Indiana State Runner-up
14 Blanchet, Washington Washington State Champion
15 Sunset, Oregon Oregon State Champion



Highland, Idaho: National Champions


Bob Conley: Idaho's Greatest


From 1980 to 1990, no team completely defined an entire state as the Highland Rams from Pocatello, Idaho. Producing nine (9) state championships in a ten year stretch the Rams set the standard of excellence for Idaho prep cross country. However, this reign of dominance culminated with the epic run of the memorable '84 Highland boys cross country team. From 1981 until 1984 the Highland Rams went undefeated, during this stretch they remained as the only team to defeat Utah powerhouse Murray. The Highland Rams have not been unknown in the XC Legacy rankings, finishing the '82 season ranked 6th Nationally, and the '83 season ranked 3rd Nationally. The Bob Conley led Rams entered the 1984 season with one of the top prep teams in the country. Only one downfall, this national powerhouse competed in Idaho.

Its always hard to tell how good an athlete is based off of 5000 meter cross country times. The 5000 meter time is not always an indicator of individual or team talent. However, compare these District results to Idaho's most recognized meet, the Bob Firman Invitational 5000 meter course. The '84 Highland District course was more difficult than Firman and yet the times are competitive. In fact, over the past five years the team with the best total team time at Firman have went on to place in the top 10 nationally. Firman Champions: '08: North Central (16:22) placed 1st nationally; '07:North Central (16:18) placed 6th nationally; '06:Trubaco Hills (16:11) placed 9th nationally; '05:Mountain View (16:15) placed 5th nationally. Consider the following, unlike Firman the Rams of 1984 had no competition or highly recognized programs to compete against. Yet they averaged 16:06 over a more difficult 5000 meter course.


To understand the potential of this Highland Rams team we need to look beyond the state championship victory. Several weeks earlier, at the District Championships Highland produced a memorable performance. Under difficult conditions, on the Barz Field Idaho State University 5000 meter course, the Rams would race to the team title scoring a perfect 15 points. Over what Conley called, "tough trails, tough hills, with ups and downs," the Rams produced a total team result that could be compared nationally.


In determining the National Championship the question came down to, if we took Conroe McCullough and dropped them on this course on this day would they equal their Texas State Championship times? We felt strongly, no, and yet in a more adverse environment against less than stellar competition the Rams were competitive. Likewise, if we took the Rams to Texas to compete at the Texas State Championship course would they post superior times to their District scores? Absolutely! When doing comparisons we determined the difference between the Rams District course and the Texas State course was roughly 30 seconds individually or roughly nine seconds per mile.  

Competing in the 1984 Idaho State Cross Country Championships the Rams faced a true challenge. Staring into a 29 degree blizzard, the Rams looked to claim a third consecutive undefeated season with another state championship. It was thought that the '84 Rams would break the state meet team points record of 29 set in the 1983 championship.


The weather would prove a challenge at breaking that record. Into blowing winds and freezing snow the Rams would not be disuaded as individual standout senior Marty Stroschein claimed the indiviual crown in 16:32. Stroschein was followed closely by Rob Rene who finished second in 16:34 over the 5000 meter Freeman Park, Idaho Falls course. All five team competitors finished in the top 12, however under better conditions they could have finished all five in the top 8. Rob Rene, known nationally as the TAC National Cross Country Champion as an 8th grader, was no slouch. The total team score of 35 points would be the second lowest in state championship history. Surprising considering the extreme weather conditions. This would cap a thirty-plus meet winning streak and three years of dominance.


The problem with Idaho cross country courses is that they are extremely difficult 5000 meter courses. Courses such as Farragut State Park (Couer d' Alene), Hells Gate State Park (Lewiston), Kelly Park (Soda Springs), and Freeman Park (Idaho Falls). These courses stretch from north, south and east demanding true individual grit and determination. The fastest 5000 meter course in Idaho is arguably the Bob Firman Invitational and yet, even the Northwest Region Championship course is a true test of the cross country spirit. As Conley puts it, "we ran on no flat courses that year, it seemed like every course was up and down and tough on the guys." Often, nine minute two miler and distance ace Marty Stroschein would claim victory in the mid 16 minute range with few opportunties to race a fast course. Throw in an unusually cold and unpredictable season and the odds of being nationally noticed were dramatically stacked against the Conley led Highland Rams. As we have learned adversity breads champions and brings out the best in a team.


He stands at the top of the list, as the greatest cross country coach in Idaho prep history. Bob Conley is a man of unequalled measure and a true national coaching legend. Until now, the story of Bob Conley, has been missing from the annuals of legendary U.S. coaches. Each year Conley improved his boys teams and each year they excelled head and shoulders above everyone in the state. This Hall of Fame coach assembled a team for the '84 season that included two nine minute two-milers at the front of a dominant pack. While many of the records and meet results no longer exist and the State Association lacks adequate records what we do know is that Bob Conley's team was epic.

Greatness for a Decade


What defines a dynasty? There are the obvious factors such as team strength, state championships, and an extended run of dominance. Most often, these dynasties are accompanied by one more element, superb coaching. Illinois has Joe Newton, Florida has Brent Haley, Washington has Pat Tyson, Indiana has Chuck Koeppen, and Arizona has Bud Davis...the list goes on and on. Within the realm of National prep cross country these legendary coaches step beyond simply producing state championships and into the realm of complete Regional dominance. Each state has their own coaching legend, and while individual talents come and go each year defying reasonable comprehension there stands year in and year out one common denominator, the coach.



Highland Rams District Championship (Hilly 5000 Meters)

Athlete Name



Marty Stroschein



Rob Rene



Richard Burndt



Todd Musser



Todd Humphrey





Later that year, at the Idaho State Track & Field Championships BYU coaching legend Clarence Robinson called Stroschein and Rene's two-mile dual as the greatest high school two-mile race he had ever witnessed. In that race Stroschein set the record in 9:08 which has only been bettered once. Rob Rene would eventually move on to compete at BYU for Robinson after running 4:16 in the state mile as a junior. Strochein would go onto compete in a Southern California Invitational (GWI?) mile. In that race, according to Conley, Stroschein ran a Idaho best 4:07.29, which still stands as the fastest mile in Idaho history. Though results are hard to find for confirmation we do know that Illinois top runner that year was Mark Deady whom ran a 4:07.50 that season. Stroschein would go on to compete at Washington State University where he would be a Pac-10 Champion in the steeplechase. In 1991, Stroschein would be ranked ninth in the U.S. for the steeplechase. What is clear, Stroschein and Rene were true front runners equal to any nationally. From the Idaho results we can see they were not challenged.



  They Were The Best by Jon Bulger, Idaho State Journal



The common denominator for the Highland Rams State Championship program was Bob Conley. One of the true national prep coaching legends, Conley, set the bar for Idaho cross country programs. His teams and individuals have stood as the standard of excellence for decades. Let it be known as well that the first National Championship cross country program out of Idaho came from Pocatello. It is also fitting that current Highland XC Head Coach Chris Belcher organized the nations first Region XC Championship, held on the Highland Golf Course in 2006. This event served as a precursor to the Nike Cross Nationals Regional Championship System.


So we see, so much of Northwest greatness comes out of Pocatello and Highland high school. Currently, Highland Coach Chris Belcher hosts the annual Bob Conley Invitational over the venurable Highland Golf Course. Bob Conley spends a tremendous amount of time golfing and enjoying retirement in Pocatello, Idaho. As one of the top three programs of the Northwest, Highland takes it's place beside South Eugene (70's) and Mead (90's) as one of the true Northwest cross country team juggernauts and the Northwest Team of the 80's. 


2. Conroe McCullough, Texas


In 1984 a team from Conroe McCullough, Texas broke the State Championship team scoring record. With 28 team points it is hard to imagine a more dominant team than the Conroe team. Known today as "The Woodlands", McCullough ran through the season undefeated. Texas Track & Field News released a short story following the '84 State Championship race.


In this race, Stacy Sutter ran away with the individual title with an impressive 14:58 victory over Reuben Reina. Sutter would go onto claim the Kinney South Individual Championship. The team consisted of a true front runner and a pack that followed with the 2-5 spread a mere 9 seconds at the State Championships.