Sports Extra: CHS runners leave legacy behind

Sports Extra: CHS runners leave legacy behind

I graduated high school 25 years ago. Seems long, long ago. Not my most pleasant of times. Really did not like my high school years.

Graduation day came and went. Whoopee. I was free. Off to college I went, discovering new challenges I so desperately needed.

It was at Eastern Illinois where I found my niche in writing in a journalism setting, a.k.a., the newspaper business.

Although I did try the TV medium for a while, as funky looking as I was back then, I’d have no chance to become a TV reporter.

I settled for a newspaper job in a small quaint town in southeastern Illinois. Two months after starting was thrusted into the sports reporting position. Been very entertained over the years, to be sure.

While I disliked high school, I now absolutely love watching high school athletics give their all, win or lose. Don’t matter the sport or season, I don’t need a reason to head out to the park, the gymnasium or the track.

Carlinville High School just had its 2016 edition of commencement exercises. It was a treat to watch them from the beginning of the school year to the end. For some, I feel like I’ve known them for years, although I have been here just 14 months.

I have a much more better appreciation for some athletes, the runners. Those who like to run for their enjoyment. For some, it’s a business. In fact, I saw two CHS track athletes running through town just last week. I have an idea of who they were, but only saw them from the back, so not 100 percent sure. School was over for the summer, but running was not. They had no clue I was in my car right behind them. They had no worries in the world. Running just because they could. I applaud that.

I also applaud softball senior Baylee Hughes’ speech at graduation. It’s probably my favorite quote  I’ve heard in a very long time.

“Thank you to my fifth grade track meet team for earning me the only track victory I would ever see,” Hughes said. “As a softball player, I am an adamant believer that running is a punishment, not an enjoyable pastime. That also means I try to hit home runs when I get up to bat so I can trot at my own pace.”

I agree – I’m not a fan of running on my own. I can walk a good distance, which I do over lunch hour on most good days. But to be able to run long distances in short amounts of time, that takes plenty of discipline, dedication and perhaps, a bit of craziness.

But for those who dislike running, there are plenty of those who excel at it, and four CHS seniors in particular – Nolan Kreipe, Cory Landon, Jacey Roper and Colleen Madden – have proven that running can indeed take you a long way.

Roper is heading to Western Illinois. Landon to Wichita State. Madden to Indiana State. Kreipe to the Naval Academy.

In college, cross country meets for men’s events is six miles instead of three miles in high school. Landon, who recently won a pair of medals in Charleston, told me he’s going to have to amp it up this summer to get ready for Wichita State in the fall.

“I’m going to have to up my mileage quite a bit,” Landon said. “I’m around 30 miles a week right now and I think when I get to Wichita I’m going to have to be at least mid-50s (a week). It’ll be a big adjustment  but we’ve faced it before.”

In a town as small as Carlinville, to have four from the same sport competing at the next level, Division I colleges nonetheless, is a remarkable accomplishment.

They’ve all run at the cross country state meet, the track and field state meet in Peoria and Charleston, respectively. It means they’ve stuck to the plan, been brought up the right way and also achieved good things in the classroom.

A lot of state medals,  over the past couple of years. It’s remarkable the number of medals and other various awards were on display at the track banquet the other night just waiting for the athletes to pick up from various events this past season. Imagine how decorated some of the area’s finest runners bedrooms are looking.

But I don’t want to overlook any of the seniors who just graduated. It’s a major accomplishment. A sense of pride and hard work as they turn the corner.

Madden summed it up very well in her closing speech at graduation,

“We are not the same people we were the first time we entered this building,” Madden said. “In our 720 days as CHS students, we became the individuals we are today. And that, in turn, will pave the way for who we will become in the next days, weeks and years of our lives. This gym is full of people who believed in us before we ever believed in ourselves. And I know they will continue to believe in us as we continue to take this next step in our lives.”

All graduates should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t realize how important high school had on my upbringing. Looking back at my high school days, I’d redo everything about those days.

But eventually I found something I enjoyed doing and over time have met some of the most enjoyable athletes, coaches, teachers, business professionals and colleagues. It’s simply an amazing profession I have, to watch these athletes perform at a high level and represent their town in the classiest of ways.

Congrats to the Class of 2016.