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 National Rankings
by Aron & David Taylor
|Team/ State||Season Accomplishment|
|1||Flathead, Montana||National Champions|
|2||Conroe McCullough, Texas||Undefeated State Champion|
|3||Lassen, California||Northern California Champions|
|4||Gallup, New Mexico||New Mexico State Champions|
|5||Bernards, New Jersey||New Jersey Meet of Champions|
|6||Highland, Idaho||Idaho State Champions|
|7||Valparaiso, Indiana||Indiana State Champion|
|8||Simi Valley, California||Southern Sectional Champions|
|9||Fargo South, North Dakota||North Dakota State Champions|
|10||Schaumburg, Illinois||Illinois State Champions|
|11||Trinity, Kentucky||Kentucky State Champions|
|12||Tigard, Oregon||Oregon State Champions|
|13||Carmel, Indiana||Indiana Runner-up|
|14||Huntsville, Alabama||Alabama State Champions|
|15||Caldwell, Ohio||Ohio State Champions|
|16. Punahou, HI; 17. Pine Forrest, NC; 18. Saugus, CA; 19. Phoenix Trevor Browne, AZ; 20. Redmond, WA; 21. Reno, NV; 22. Dimond, AK; 23. Xavier, CT; 24. Murray, UT; 25. Countryside, FL|
1. Flathead, Montana: National Champions
In the annuals of cross country history few teams come along that produce such in-state dominance that they spark the attention of the nation. One such team arrived in Montana in 1985. Long before Bloom's National Rankings teams throughout the country were performing at epic competitive levels.
Looking back, the legacy of Flathead high's cross country programs in the annuals of Montana State Cross Country history have been legendary. No team has been so dominant, had such a reign of victory, and brought as much national recognition as Flathead high. It all began with the 1985 Flathead team.
In 1985, Flathead went undefeated, storming through the season on some of the most difficult courses in the country. The Kalispell team, led by coaching legend Paul Jorgensen, competed in the hills, at elevations above 4800 feet and yet averaged times comparible to team throughout the country. In the end, the 1985 Kalispell team will be regarded as one of the great teams in U.S. history.
In something of a joke the '85 Flathead team were known simply as the "Dog Team". Assistant coach Fred Longhart, a top notch math teacher at Flathead high school coined the '85 team as the "Dog Team", because the team competed like dogs. In Alaska, each year bobsled races are contested. In these races, packs of dogs carry the sled to victory. Through much adversity and trial these "Dog Teams" traverse trial and tribulation for one objective, victory. So it was with Flathead, a pack mentality that sought to win through all obstacles and challenges.
Pulling as a team, the Flathead team ran through Montana undefeated. The team used to call the top runners of other teams "dog meat", as they ran them down and dominated in team scoing. On this team we had "Top Dog" Scott Menghini, "Swift Dog" Navar Swift, "Corn Dog" Tom Arnone, "Bird Dog" Dan Alexander, and "Cold Dog" Colden Baxter. This amazing team set forward on a trek to national stardom. Little did they know, the "Dog Team" would be setting in motion the destiny of a state while establishing themselves as the National Champions.
At the Montana State Championships, the "Dog Team" produced a truly epic performance. At an elevation of 4800 feet, over a very hard course Flathead claimed the team championships with 43 points. With a final mile that goes uphill Flathead competed on a course that may be regarded as one of the most difficult in U.S. history. Yet the result has been something of Montana lore. Individual standout, Scott Menghini claimed honors in a state record and what Coach Paul Jorgensen calls the race of his life in an unbelievable 14:47.5. Knowing this course and the surrounding challenges that Flathead faced that day this performance IS equal to a 13:50-14:00 3-mile performance at sea-level on a flat competitive course. Imagine that! As Jorgensen recalls, "I watched as Menghini come around the bend and I could not believe he was so far ahead, we waited for over 30 seconds before we saw the 2nd runner, it was one of the greatest individual performances in Montana history." Possessing a true front runner, the Flathead team managed a 13 second spread from the second runner to the fifth runner.
A Coaching Legend
Cross Country Coach Paul Jorgensen has accumulated 11 boys cross country titles, 13 girls cross country titles. Coach Jorgensen has been the Montana Coaches Association Coach of the Year 25 times, is a member of the National Coaches Hall of Fame in Cross Country (2003), and in 2008 was named the National Cross Country Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. In all, Coach Jorgensen has garnered 2435 wins against 352 losses over 34 years of coaching. The Flathead Cross Country team under the leadership of Coach Jorgensen was featured in 2004 in the popular running book Training for young distance runners 2nd edition by Larry Greene and Russ Pate.
|Athlete Name||State Place||Time (3-miles; 4800ft elevation)|
|Scott Menghini||1st||14:47.5 (state record)|
|Libby Meet||Won with 16 points|
|Kalispell Invitational||Won with 26 points|
|Libby Invitational||Won with 31 points|
|Helena Invitational||Won with 33 points|
|Big Sky Meet||Won with 16 points|
|Missoula Invitational||Won with 33 points|
|Hellgate Meet||Won with 15 points|
|State Championships||Won with 43 points|