By Lucy Caile, Sophomore, Bear Creek Cross-Country
The most crushing disappointment imaginable at District Championships last season propelled The Bush School boys high school cross country team to re-evaluate their approach to this sport, propelling them to a podium ﬁnish at the Washington Cross County 1A State Championships in Pasco on November 5th. The epitome of a team committed to making a comeback, Bush embarked on an aggressive training program with innumerable hours of hard work put in by a group of dedicated individuals fixated on a goal.
The work started June 15, head coach James Batey recalls. The upsetting one-point miss for the boys at District Championships last year fueled their plan to trek to State this year. “We did not want that to happen again so when I presented them with a pathway to go to State (running hundreds of miles over the summer) they were all in. Their attitude was one of resolve, dedication and focus,” Batey states about the team’s attitude toward overcoming the outcome of last year.
A dramatic change in the team’s culture was necessary to achieve their goal. Running in Pasco meant methodically paving the training road. June 15 was the start of Batey’s plan for a summer of Olympian level workouts; original goals of 100 miles turned into 200 miles which turned into the ﬁnal goal of a whopping 500 miles for every varsity runner. Summer was where the State seed was planted for the team. “The idea to bring the team to State was ﬁrst conceived during our summer practices. We realized we had an incredible group of determined athletes, and that if we pushed ourselves, we could be competitive at Districts and even State,” team captain Tom Fahlman said pertaining to who ﬁrst brought up the idea of training speciﬁcally for a State berth. The spirit of the summer was dedication in order to achieve a dream and the Bush team never let up on their workouts. This dream was not for the faint of heart; success for the team meant being diligently determined and intensely focused.
Workouts were eased in during mid-June, gradually becoming more difficult. By July the team was training seven days a week with twice a day workouts starting in August. “My planning was similar to past seasons, just more aggressive. I knew if runners were going to put in the work, we could build more and more as the season went on,” Batey states about the aggressive summer months. Captains Tom Fahlman and Oliver Dunn held practices twice a week and kept the team from losing sight of their goal as they worked towards being a part of the “500 Mile Club”. The team remained motivated, making no excuses to skip their twice daily runs and workouts. “Our motivation during the summer was slightly different for each runner, but I think there were two main themes. One of them was the desire to improve our place at Districts, and the other was to make use of our pool of great athletes and make this season one to remember,” Fahlman recalls about ﬁnding the summer drive.
During the season, the focus had to be maximized or all the hours put in over the summer would have been for naught. Getting ready for workouts or meets required avoiding distractions, centering on running the race ahead, and being in the zone. Fahlman stated that “pumping up the team before workouts isn’t very hard. We are all so ready to work that all our coach has to say is ‘Go,’ and we’re off. Our rowdy Tea Waka cheer gets us hyped up before meets, and once we complete this cry, we are truly ready for any race.”
Dunn conveyed that this season was centered around the team. “We got shirts that said ‘The Team The Team The Team’ – inspired by Bo Schembechler's famous speech about what it means to be part of a team. We embraced this attitude this year, and shifted perspectives from individual performance towards what you can do to help the team. Of course, we are still competing for the top spots, but we are trying to get faster and work with our teammates to bring them with us and support each other.” The Bush boys focused on running for each other during races, improving individually only to help the bigger goal of making it to State.
Prepping mentally and physically was also an extremely important part of paving the road to Pasco. “This means getting a good night of sleep and taking care of any soreness by rolling out, ice bathing, etc. It also involves thinking about the course and the race and doing what you need to do to be ready mentally. A classic pre-race day dinner is pasta. The day of the race I generally eat three to four hours pre-race and then snack until about two hours before the race. It is a tradition for captains to write to every team member on a banana. We then eat these motivational bananas before our race,” Dunn stated about his team’s race prep. Motivational bananas, in this instance, being the fuel of winners.
The “500 Mile Club”, Tea Waka cheer, and motivational bananas boded well for the Bush boys as they completed an extremely successful season. Undefeated through District Championships at South Whidbey High School, Dunn’s response was one of only humbleness and gratitude for the support when asked about the success. The entire team qualiﬁed for State individually (top twenty-eight) with team captain senior Tom Fahlman leading the pack finishing in 17:05 for sixth place. The Bush team was State-bound after blowing their previous record of missing Pasco by one point out of the park. At State, the team were determined to stand atop the podium that beckoned them all the way from the fall of 2015. Oliver Dunn was aware of the tough competition heading into State ﬁnals, and yet he knew the strength of his team. He believed if they remembered all the work put in throughout the season, they could absolutely accomplish their goal – and so they did.
At State championships, everything paid off. The Bush team captured third place, earning them a spot on the podium and a medal around their necks. Each team member ran under eighteen minutes and Fahlman notched tenth place, giving the team a thunderous end to their season. When asked how he felt about the team’s success this season, coach James Batey simply responded with “proud”. The boys have created a legacy for their team, with their school now taking a little more notice to their sport. “This has been one of the best cross country seasons for Bush in a long time. We deﬁnitely have more support in the Bush community now than ever before. Cross country can be a hard sport for fans since the meets tend to be really far away, and many people don’t even understand how cross country works. However, this year we have deﬁnitely gotten more recognition for our success,” Dunn believes. Ready for what the future holds, the Bush boys cross country team has set down a foundation for success centered around what it means to achieve a dream.