Steady improvement earned state title for De Soto runners
This weekend the De Soto High School girls cross country team captured the state championship at the 4A meet in Wamego. The boys team finished third.
It wasn't a one-year flash. The accomplishment came after years of steady improvement in the sport.
It wasn't that long ago that the team celebrated one or two members making it to the state finals. In those days, just qualifying as a team for the meet seemed an unattainable goal and actually competing for state championships incomprehensible.
But then five years ago, De Soto runners started winning. And while some team members were gifted runners, many were athletes who made themselves competitive through will and dedication to a grueling sport that doesn't have the glamour of others (they don't write songs about being a cross country hero). Although it was on the spring track and not on the fall cross country paths, we witnessed some of those athletes courageously compete despite being able only to hobble through a mile run, a relay runner find the energy to steal the last spot in the state meet by overtaking a cruising opponent on the last yard of a regional race and runners literally competing until they dropped.
Those runners had a demanding coach, who didn't shy away from calling the teams or individuals out when he didn't think they performed up to their abilities. But we also knew him to be protective of his athletes in vulnerable moments.
Winning a state championship only underscores the remarkable improvement Chris McAfee's teams have made in the past five years. We salute that having had a glimpse of the character of the athletes and coaches that made that improvement possible.