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 Nationals Rankings
by Aron & David Taylor
|1. Mead, Washington||Undefeated National Champions|
|1. Cincinnati Elder, Ohio||Undefeated National Champions|
|3. Schaumburg, Illinois||State Champions|
|4. Dana Hills, California||State Champions|
|5. Carmel, Indiana||State Champions|
|6. Pope Paul VI, New Jersey||Meet of Champions|
|7. York, Illinois||State Runner-up|
|8. Gallup, NM||State Champions|
|9. Leto, Florida||State Champions|
|10. Helena, Montana||State Champions|
|11. Caldwell, Ohio||State Champions|
|12. Christian Bros. Acad., New Jersey||Meet of Champions Runner-up|
|13. Highland, Idaho||State Champions|
|14. Timpview, Utah||State Champions|
|15. Humble Kingwood, Texas||State Champions|
1. Mead, Washington: The Co-National Champions
There are few in the world of high school cross country who are not familiar with the names Pat Tyson and Mead High School. For the last two decades they have exemplified the pinnacle of excellence for this sport claiming an improbable 14 state titles in a 21 year span (9 in a row 88'-96'). In 1993, the Harrier Magazine crowned Mead National Champions. That was a team featuring three Foot Locker finalists in their varsity squad and is considered as the single greatest squad of all time. However, the run of 14 state titles in 21 years began 5 years prior in 1988, with an equally impressive squad, also featuring a duo of Foot Locker Finalists and the inspiring philosophy of a lost brother.
“Go out Hard, Take Charge, and Have Fun”
That was the motto of Matt Zweifel, who was destined to begin the 88’ season on the varsity squad. According to Coach Pat Tyson, “Matt would have been our 3rd runner”, however tragedy struck and Matt passed away following a fatal traffic accident. Just days prior Matt had penned a hand written note to Coach Tyson stating:
Thanks for choosing me for Spring Leadership Camp. I hope that next cross-country season I can use the knowledge I’ve learned to make the team better. (Although were already going to be the best.) It was a great experience teaching me to work better as a group instead of as an individual.
Thanks a lot for everything,
Matt “Baby Huey” Zweifel
Go out Hard, Take Charge, and Have Fun was his inspiring message left to a stunned team and coach. However, perhaps no one else would have been as prepared by destiny to assist those young men to overcome such a loss as Pat Tyson was in 1988. You see, only a decade earlier he had lost his best friend, the spirit of his team, known to the world simply as Pre. To Pat, life is energy and the ability to channel it correctly is the difference between success and failure and following Pre’s death he sought to take Pre’s spirit to everyplace and everyone he met. That was Pre’s legacy and Pat Tyson’s commitment to it. With the loss of Matt, the team and coach pulled together, they made a commitment and began a season which undoubtedly established the foundation of the great tradition we know today simply as Mead.
A tradition and spirit began with Steve Prefontaine and Matt Zweifel, with a team and coach unified in the spirit of loss, courage and hope. Mead is spirit and perhaps no program in the country has as much of a claim on that as the program out of Spokane, Washington. Prophetically he was right, that seasons Mead squad would be the best, in the state of Washington and Nationally as the 1988 XC Legacy National Champions. As his mother expressed in a heartfelt letter prior to the seasons start regarding the season dedication to him, “Matt must be so proud, as we are, his life touched so many in such a positive way, we love him and miss him”.
Pat Tyson, "The accident happened after the Clear Lake camp in August, it was shocking because of his love, passion, and spirit. Everyone loved Pre's spirit and everyone loved Zweifel's spirit. He was a kid who endured."
Running with the Best
Interestingly enough, the first individual state title winner for the State of Washington went to Frank Knott of Mead High School in 1959. In 1988 Mead was led by defending state champion and Foot Locker Finalist Chris Lewis who would later that spring go on to run 8:48 for two miles and post the nations fastest mile in 4:04. He was accompanied by future Footlocker Finalist (1989) Greg Kuntz, future state Mile Champion (1990-4:10) and future Washington State University super steeplechaser Nathan Davis (older brother of Matt and Micah Davis), Yukon Degenhart, Rod Howell, Erik Johnson, and Rick Willett. Yukon gaining notoriety for running a 4:29 mile in the 8th grade as well as beginning the pink argyle socks trend that symbolized the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Mead squads. Following this they began painting their shoes, a tradition which quickly spread across the northwest and nation throughout the 1990’s as the Mead program reached astronomical heights of success.
Pre sparked Oregon, Zweifel Sparked Mead
Capping a phenomenal undefeated season, the squad of harriers posted a team average of 14:55 over the difficult 3-mile state course defeating cross town rivals Ferris High School 43-115 and posting a state record team time of 74:39. Amazingly, Ferris who placed second to Mead was led by another Foot Locker All-American, Stuart Burnham (7th 1989). In 1988 Mead was simply unstoppable and unbelievable, with even the renowned 1993 squad, labeled nearly indisputably as the greatest of all time only besting the overall team time state record by one second, posting 74:38. In 88' there was something special underneath the surface and that was the inspiration and influence of Matt Zweifel, the heart of Mead. In the letter from Zweifel he stated that he hoped the knowledge he had learned would help the team, 1. Go out hard, 2. Take Charge, 3. Have Fun, this was his motto, and are principles that have inspired over two decades of dominance and he certainly has touched so many in a positive way by contributing immensily to the foundation for Mead's first National Championship and legacy of excellence.
ACTUAL 1988 PAPER CLIPPINGS DOCUMENTING THE SEASON COMING SOON!
|Richland Invitational||1st with 40 points|
|Sunfair Invitational||1st with 25 points|
|Districts||1st with 26 points|
|GSL @ Whitworth||1st with 17 points|
|GSL @ Whitworth||1st with 15 points|
|Interlake Invitational||1st with 19 points|
|GSL @ Esmeralda||1st with 15 points|
|Pellure Invitational||1st with 20 points|
|State Championships||1st with 43 points (14:55 avg.)|
1. Cincinnati Elder, Ohio: Undefeated National Champions
Ohio cross country has carried a legacy all its own. The home of legendary Olympian Bob Kennedy, Ohio stands as a beacon for the sport of prep cross country. In 1982 a team from Cincinnati set sail on a remarkable season. Led by Hall of Fame coach Steve Spencer the Panther's almost capped a perfect season and finished 2nd in the national rankings. It would be 6 years later that a new team would emerge to complete what that '82 team fell short of, a National Championship.
In what can be called one of the great seasons in Ohio cross country history, Cincinnati Elder went 170-0 in dual meet scoring and swept through the season in national championship style. This season, it was Cincinnati Elder who would claim the title as Ohio's best and National Champions.
Entering the 1988 season the Purple Pack attack was on a roll. Claiming the 1986 State Championship and a US#5 National Ranking, Cincinnati Elder was stunned at the 1987 state championships. Cincinnati Elder finished second place by one point to Sylvania Southview. While the Panther’s claimed victory in the District, Regional, and Greater Cincinnati League Championships they fell just short when it mattered most. The Purple Pack Attack would finish the 87’ season with an impressive 155-2 overall team record. The Pre-season would open with the release of the Ohio Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll. Elder would enter the 87’ season ranked #1 with seven first place votes.
Pre-Season Class AAA Coaches Prep Cross Country Poll
1. Elder (7) 70
2. Mount Healthy 62
3. St. Xavier 53
4. LaSalle 52
5. Oak Hills 43
6. Milford 35
7. Anderson 27
8. Lakota 19
9. Roger Bacon 10
In the opening meet of the season the Panthers downed Roger Bacon to claim the top five places winning with a perfect 15 team points.
The following week at the Lakota Classic the defeated over 20 teams including Lancaster to place second, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth for win with 27 points. Senior standout Mike Brubaker would finish in second with a time of 17:37 with sophomore Terry McLean 4th in 17:40. Junior Joe Sunderman would finish in 5th with a time of 17:52. Team Scores: 1. Elder 27; 2. Lancaster 102; 3. Worthington 134; 4. St. Xavier 167; 5. Upper Arlington 172; 6. Oak Hills 185; 7. Milford 200; 8. Pinckerington 218; 9. Westerville South 229; 10. Anderson 272.
The Panther’s then travelled to the Tiffin Cross Country Carnival to compete over 5000 meters. Elder would win with 82 points over West Lake. Sophomore Terry McLean would finish in 6th place with a time of 16:36. Teammate sophomore Mark Westrich would finish in 16th place in a time of 16:55. Team Scores: 1. Elder 82; 2. West Lake 159; 3. Tiffin 168; 4. Zanesville 168; 5. Bay Village 197.
As quoted by Cincinnati Reporter Joe Jacobs, “Like a fine wine, Elder’s cross country team seems to get better with age. Coach Steve Spencer does not rebuild. He reloads.”
At the Kettering Fairmont Invitational Cincinnati Elder again dominated with 34 team points defeating over 20 teams. Sophomore Terry McLean finished in 3rd place with a time of 15:11 while teammate Jeremy Kelly finished in 5th place with 15:51. Team Scores: 1. Elder 34; 2. Zanesville 71; 3. Upper Arlington 118; 4. Dayton Christian 122.
At the 25th Elder Father Rudy Invitational Cincinnati Elder wanted to make a statement. “Father Rudy” is the former Elder athletic director, the Rev. Edward Rudemiller. The event started in the 1960s as the Elder relays and modified into nine races over 5000 meters distance. Of special interest Elder would face the defending AAA State Champions Sylvania Southview. As quoted by Cincinnati Enquirer Contributor Allen Rainey, head coach Steve Spencer comments on the showdown against Southview, “Southview beat us by one point at last year’s state meet. We really don’t want that to happen again.” Southview returned 8 of their top 9 varsity runners from 1987 so the match-up was highly anticipated.
Not to disappoint Elder rose to the occasion outdistancing Sylvania Southview for the Division II team championship. Led by a dominant front trio that placed in the top six Elder stormed to a meet low 39 points to Southview’s 69. Eventual Class AAA State Champion Dave Briggs of Sylvania Southview would claim individual honors in 15:18. Sophomore Terry McLean would finish in 3rd in 15:45 with Jeremy Kelly in 5th in 15:51 and teammate Mike Brubaker in 6th with 15:52.
At the Covington Catholic Invitational Elder would again dominate winning the boys Division AAA Championship with 47 points to Trinity, Kentucky’s 110. Claiming victory over 25 teams the Panther’s placed four varsity scorers in the top ten. Eventual Class AAA 5th place finisher Mark Gerstner would claim individual honors in 15:34. Elder’s Terry Mclean finished 4th in 15:55, 8. Jeremy Kelley 16:16; 9. Mike Brubaker 16:17; 10. Mark Westrich 16:21. Cincinnati Elder claimed the combined division team championship over 100 teams.
The team travelled to the Malone College Invitational to compete in the Division IV Championship. The rematch with Sylvania Southview would be up next. In championship form Elder dominated the meet with 63 points over runner-up and Ohio #2 ranked Sylvania Southview’s 125. Terry McLean would finish 4th in 16:33, 8. Mike Brubaker 16:51; 11. Jeremy Kelley 16:57; 17. Mark Westrich 17:08.
Cincinnati Elder then dominated the Class AAA Regional Championships by scoring 41 team points, winning the meet by over 100 points! Clayton Northmont claimed second with 138 points. Terry McLean finished in 16:08, Don Wash 16:24; Rich Witterstaetter 16:26; Dan Cooley 16:28; Joe Sunderman 16:32; and Mark Westrich 16:35. All varsity scorers would place in the top 18 places!
At the Class AAA Section I Southwestern District Meet Elder would claim victory again with 32 team points. The Panther’s would score five in the top ten behind a dominant team performance. Eventual Class AAA 5th place finisher Mark Gerstner claimed individual honors in 15:52. Team Scores: 1. Cincinnati Elder 32; 2. LaSalle 100; 3. St. Xavier 108; 4. Anderson 135; 5. Withrow 135; 6. Moeller 163; 7. New Richmond 167. Individual Placers: 3.Terry McLean 16:15; 4. Mike Brubaker 16:20; 7. Jeremy Kelley 16:35; 8. Don Wash 16:41; 10. Mark Westrich 16:44; 14. Rich Witterstaetter 16:49.
Cincinnati Port contributor Dave Schutte quoted Coach Steve Spencer as stating, “This is the first season that we’ve gone undefeated entering the state tournament, in 1973 we won out first (Class AAA) championship, we lost at the Cleveland St. Joe Invitational. In 1982, we finished third in the regionals, and we lost a dual meet in 1986.”
The State Championships would seem like a formality after the utter annihilation of teams throughout the regular season. The team would claim victory with a number of firsts. Running in cold and rain over a very sloppy Scioto Downs course Elder would claim the Class AAA Championship. The first team to finish a season undefeated would dominate defending state champion Sylvania Southview 70-98 to claim the Class AAA Championship. The Panther’s score was the second lowest score since 1970, not since the 1978 Cincinnati Colerain team scored 48 and finished ranked #3 nationally. Southview’s Dave Briggs would claim individual honors in 16:12.3. Terry McLean would finish in 13th place with 16:42. 14. Jeremy Keller 16:49; 22. Don Wash 17:04; 25. Mike Brubaker 17:06; 28. Rich Witterstaetter 17:08. Team Scores: 1. Cincinnati Elder 70; 2. Sylvania Southview 98; 3. Westlake 194; 4. New Philadelphia 209; 5. Fostoria 218; 6. Zanesville 229.
Steve Spencer would be voted the Enquirer’s Coach of the Year and Greater Cincinnati League Coach of the Year. Of the varsity team Terry McLean and Mike Brubaker would be named to the Class AAA First Team. Jeremy Kelley, Joe Sunderman, Don Wash and Rich Witterstaetter would be Honorable Mentions. Of the accolades that the team received following the memorable season they would be honored at the cross country awards banquet. The Mr. Zip Award would go to senior Rob Weber. The Most Improved Runner went to Rich Witterstaetter. Most Valuable Runner went to sophomore Terry McLean. Coach Steve Spencer would leave a lasting legacy with a National Championship.
|Front Row (l-r): J. Kelley, M. Wsetrich, T. McLean, D. Wash, M. Brubaker, R. Witterstaetter, J. Sunderman. Second Row: M. Ollendick, B. Roether, R. Bley, T. Darnell, S. Westrich, M. Padilla, W. Carroll, R. Wurzbacher. Third Row: M. Ennis, B. Lambers, S. Davis, C. Shaffer, R. Weber, R. Nienaber, J. Rieder, J. Oswald, J. Price. Fourth Row: C. Lucas, G. Fehr, A. Taylor, M. Cunningham, J. Eilerman, J. Bier, K. Harsley, N. Vetter.|
|Early Bird Invitatonal||Elder 15, Roger Bacon 50|
|Lakota Fall Classic||1st of 18 (27 points)|
|Tiffin CC Carnival||1st of 24 (82 points)|
|Covington Catholic Invitational||1st of 24 (47 points)|
|Malone College Invitational||1st of 25 (63 points)|
|Kettering Fairmont Invitational||1st of 18 (34 points)|
|Elder Fr. Rudy Invitational||1st of 14 (39 points)|
|GCL Championships||1st of 5 (23 points)|
|Cincinnati District||1st of 13 (32 points)|
|Southwest Regional||1st of 19 (41 points)|
|Ohio State Championship||1st of 19 (70 points)|
|SEASON RECORD: 170-0 (100%)|