It has been a roller coaster ride for the Mount Michael Knights the last couple of weeks, In the end it was a ride that will long be remembered. The disappointment of having Dan Cihal succumbing to mono at the end of the season followed by the startling rise of runners like Mike Reed at Districts, left the projected outcome of the State Meet up in the air. While some pessimists might of expected the Knights to end up somewhere in the middle of the pack. Coach Gathje knew the possibility of winning it all was there. But would all the pieces fall together?
The first big piece of the puzzle fell into place as Dan Cihal, though still sub par, was cleared by his doctor to run at the meet. The team having placed 2nd at Districts without Dan discovered something about themselves that they might not have otherwise. The Knights had dug deep and found out at districts that they were good. Dan was back. "They" were good. How good?
It was a beautiful day for a meet. The temperature was near 70, there was a light breeze and the usual buzz of anticipation that accompanies every state meet was in the air. The team was relaxed and tolerated the presence of well wishers interrupting their stretching with requests for team photos. (What was the idea? Get them smiling before because they might not be after?)
The racers from the Girls teams ran by. A calm anticipation set in only to be broken by John Lukes pacing and anxiousness to get going. "Another half hour John, just stick around with the team." Coach Gathje soothingly offers as his own stomach begins to churn, "We'll head up to the start when the next race begins."
The moment arrived. The gun fires. They're off. Coleman and Dan move out ahead of the other Knights a bit. Steven Pecha sets out a bit fast but establishes a good pace for Ethan Evert and Mike Reed who move up and fall into a good rhythm. John Lukes, a few runners back, keeps his eyes on his teammates. He stays close. All along the course fans shout and encourage the runners. Mr. Gathje darts from one spot to the next. His usual display.
Nearing the finish, Coleman and Dan are up there near the front. Coleman just a few paces ahead of Dan. A couple of Albion runners ahead of them. Another Albion runner goes by. Then a couple of more runners then Mount Michael! Ethan, Mike, John, 15 seconds later Steven rolls in. The Knights are all home as other runners continue to pour in.
Where was the fourth Albion runner? Anybody see where he finished? The runners mill around awhile. The usual uncertainty of State Meets. Who Won?! We're up there somewhere was the general consensus on the lips of the Mount Michael fans. Wayne, Neumann, Albion, Centennial, Mount Michael? 10 to 15 minutes pass. Medal winners are announced. Coleman came in 6th, Dan finished 8th. (Not bad for a Mono boy). The team drifts back to "Home base," our usual spot a few hundred yards back from the finish. People mill about.
Suddenly the anxious calm is broken as a mad man comes bounding through the crowd screaming and dancing like a fool. Its Paul McTaggart. "We Won! We Won!"