Friday, October 23, 2009

A High School Cross Country Team with a Rich Tradition

Recently I've been following the progess of the Stevens Point Area High School (SPASH) boys cross country team ( Coached by one of my former college teammates Donn Behnke, SPASH has been one of the most consistently ranked teams of any sport in Wisconsin state history.

Since he began coaching in 1977, Behnke's teams have won 9 Wisconsin state titles and finished runner up 6 times. Only twice have they not gone to state. They've also won the conference meet 32 times in 33 years.

I like the way Donn maintains his team website, providing a nice weekly summary of how his kids ran (his program includes 100 boys including varsity and jv, give or take), and how he keeps track of average team and individual times.

Donn has produced some outstanding runners over the years including 21 individual conference champions, at least 3 state champions that I can remember including Pete Skorseth, Keith Hanson, and Chris Solinsky (Solinsky and Hanson both went on to become NCAA champions). I still remember the controversy surrounding Hanson snubbing the University of Wisconsin's partial scholarship offer despite running a 8:54 two mile reportedly because Dan McClimon, the Badger coach at the time, thought Hansen had been running too many miles under Donn. Hansen chose Marquette instead, a school not exactly known for distance running, and went on to become an NCAA champion in the 10,000 meters and a 3-time All American in cross country. Ironic, because one thing I learned from Donn was the value of running slow. His kids may run some miles, but I guarantee not too many of them are run hard.

One of the reasons behind Donn's success is his ability to start them young. His junior varsity hasn't lost a conference championship meet in 33 years, and routinely his JV kids can run varsity for any other school. The depth of his program is amazing.

Finally, I like the fact that I'm seeing familiar names popping up from the old days-kids of Donn's former runners. I see Wayne Solinsky, Chris's dad, took 3rd in the 1978 conference meet, finishing right behind Ray Przybelski (I assume with a name like Przybelski, Ray is related to this year's Valley Conference champ Paul Przybelski). I also spotted the name of an up and coming freshman in northern Wisconsin by the name of Page Skorseth (any relation to Pete?).

Finally, there is also Megan Duwell, an All-American and 10,000 Big Ten Champ who runs for Minnesota and happens to be Donn's neice (John Duwell, Megan's father, is married to Lynn, Donn's sister- and John was also a teammate of mine at UW-Stevens Point).

Stay tuned for the remainder of the year. Donn's teams have a history of running well when it counts, and even though they've been beaten this year, currently they are again ranked number 1 and poised for a run at another state title(Wisconsin cross country rankings)

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