The story behind a national championship. And a girl who obviously thinks her brother is a rock star.
If you are a Facebook friend or have seen the news lately, you know that my brother’s cross-country team finished 1st (women) and 6th (men) in the nation in the NCAA Division 2 cross-country championships. It was quite an unexpected win for the women’s team and it’s been so fun to hear all the stories of their adventure.
On Monday afternoon Augustana, where my brother coaches, had a welcome home celebration for the team. Thankfully I didn’t have to work and Pat even had the day off so we all went to help celebrate.
If you saw the news story about the team, some of this will be repeated. But still, I wanted to share the entire story about Tracy and his team for family and friends who might be interested. He shared at the celebration and as usual he had quite a story to tell. He’s known in our family as the story teller and I wish I would have recorded him because it’s not the same. But I guess you’re suck with my version.
Well let’s start at the beginning. I don’t remember when he started running but it was later than most runners. He really had no interest in playing football and so eventually went out for the cross-country team. Turns out he had some natural ability and he was crazy dedicated and like ran all the time. Later on in high school he started doing really well. I have so many memories of going to his cross-country meets. We were the crazy family who ran the entire course so we could cheer for him as often as possible.
It was at least two years, maybe three years, that during Thanksgiving break we drove 8-10 hours so he could run at the Kinney National Cross Country Championships in Racine, WI. His buddies Roque and Ty, who were also runners, came too and we had some pretty interesting and hilarious road trips. Well anyway, he did really well in high school and also in college and I guess we just always knew he’d do something with running. He had some amazing coaches in high school and college that really helped mold him into the coach he is today. And he’s been coach at Augustana now for 11 years.
Tracy shared at the party that his team wasn’t expected to win at all. They were thinking that maybe they’d get 3rd or 4th. The qualifying race for the National Championship was in Colorado, something Tracy was not happy about because it gives the teams in higher altitudes an unfair advantage. So at the qualifying meet the team did ok but nothing spectacular and so they were definitely under the radar, especially since usually the teams from higher altitudes usually do much better than those not in high altitudes.
The week of the National Championships one of Tracy’s runners, Kelly, had to unfortunately experience the death of her father. She flew home to Colorado and Tracy told her that if she needed to be with family, then that was fine. Whatever she needed to do, they understood. On Thursday, a few hours after her dad’s funeral, she met the team at the airport and went on to the National Championships. She said one of the last things her dad told her was to run her race. As you can imagine, that was a really difficult thing for the team to deal with. But it also brought them closer together.
Of course there was a huge blizzard the day of the race. Windy, snow, cold. With our tame fall here in the midwest, Tracy’s runners hadn’t had much practice running in the cold this season. The race started and Tracy tried to keep track of where everyone was. He did know one other team’s colors – Western State. The team that was expected to get first place. About 3/4 of the way through the race Tracy realized that they had a chance at winning.
Here’s how Tracy told it… (for the most part word for word).
“So I’m keeping track of the girls and Western who was our biggest competition. So first comes a Western girl, then Leah – BAM, then Runa – BAM and then a Western girl. But then here comes Kristin – BAM and then Kyle – Bam. We really running really strong. We had four girls and they only had two. And then a Western girl and another Western girl comes by. Oh man it was so close. So it’s four and four. And then here comes Kelly, who just lost her dad.”
“I went ballistic! I started screaming at the girls, “WE CAN WIN! WE CAN WIN! WE CAN WIN!” My voice was going horse and with the weather I didn’t know if they could hear me but then I saw the look in their eyes and I thought they could. Later on I asked the girls if they could hear me and they told me that not only did they hear me but they believed me this time. I guess usually they don’t believe what I say when I’m yelling at them during a race. So when I say, ‘You’re looking good, great job!’ I guess they normally don’t believe me. But anyway, they could somehow tell by my screaming that I was serious and that we could really win.”
“So we finish the race and we still didn’t know who won. And honestly I didn’t think we did. I thought that we were up there but I didn’t think we had enough to win. Then the coach from Indiana comes up to me and hands me a phone and says, ‘Tracy you need to take this call.’ And honestly I still have no idea who I was talking to. This guy says to me, ‘Tracy, you’re National Champions.’ I couldn’t believe it. I started shaking and it was just so surreal. We were still in the 20 minute challenge period where teams can dispute placing of kids and stuff but I got the girls together in a huddle and I said to them, ‘Listen we still have 20 minutes until it’s official but it looks like you’re National Champs!’
“They went crazy and started screaming ‘AAAHHHH AAAHHHH!” (Imagine him screaming like a girl! HA!) It was so awesome.”
Missy again – ok maybe I’m a little emotional and a crazy sister, but I totally cried when he was telling all this. I realize Augie isn’t some huge school but it’s a really neat thing for this team to accomplish this. He then went on to talk about how he’s always told his kids and past runners that they need to put Augie on the map. He got tons of texts and emails after the race and almost every one of his alumni said to him, “Augie’s on the map baby!”
I almost feel bad for the guys team because they did totally awesome too, finishing 6th in the nation. But of course with the girls winning, alot of the focus is on them. But the guys did an amazing job too.
After it was official and the entire way home the girls would say to Tracy, “Guess what coach?” And Tracy would say, “What?” And they would say, “NATIONAL CHAMPS BABY!” He said they’d say it over and over and over. I guess they were entitled, huh! Augie ended up winning the National Championship by only 4 points. It’s the second closest score in the history of Div 2 cross-country.
Thanks for following along with Tracy and for all your “likes” and comments. Tracy is one of the few people in the world not on Facebook so I’ll pass them on to him. It’s been a tough year for him. And our entire family is just so happy for him and proud of him for the hard work and dedicated coach and teacher that he is. Even though he’s a tough coach he cares deeply about his kids and runners and truly wants to help them succeed. Not just at running, but at life too.
Unfortunately I didn’t receive any of Tracy’s natural running talents. But he has inspired me to run and to challenge myself and to never give up. I’m so proud of my little brother and give thanks to God for him!
Ok I promise I’m done talking about him and his team. Well at least until they win another National Championship!