Kickapoo head cross country coach Jeremy Goddard remembers the moment four years ago. That’s when he watched his then-seventh-grade son run on the middle school cross country team. “I just pulled them aside and said, ‘Guys, if you guys stay together we can do something really special,'” he said.
And they did. After finishing 6th in the state as sophomores two years ago, the team lined up in the state championship meet against the defending state champion and cross country powerhouse Rock Bridge, after having lost to them three times. The Chiefs were underdogs, needing everything to go just right to have a chance.
And that’s exactly what happened. “My second guy passed two,” said Goddard. “My third guy passed two. My fourth guy passed two. And Jack is my fifth guy. He was sitting at 60-something. And he passed 14 guys all by himself.”
“When I crossed the finish line, one of the officials tells me, ‘You guys won it!'” said Grant Musick, a senior runner on the team. “I was in disbelief. I ran over to my teammates and everyone was going crazy.”
After winning Kickapoo’s first boys cross country state title since 1995, six of the seven runners from last year’s squad return as seniors. They’ll have a chance to become the first Springfield city school to repeat. Coach Goddard remembers that team. “I graduated in 1993 so I knew those ’95 boys,” he said. “They were absolute dogs.”
“Seeing guys grow from 7th grade to 11th grade, winning state together, it’s like being together your whole adolescence,” added Musick.
Their top runner, Tyler Harris, is a late bloomer who had the slowest time of the group in middle school. Their typical number two runner, Musick, burst onto the team his sophomore year. And coach’s son Colby Goddard joins Kyle Keltner and the twins, Brooklyn and Jack Creehan, as a group that’s a threat to finish anywhere in the top six of a race.
However the season plays out, they’re making this individual sport all about the team.
“When things are tough, and you’re in the middle of a race, and you’re hurting more than you should, you kind of just think, ‘I don’t want to let my teammates down,'” said Musick. “It makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger.”
And that something bigger could mean making history.