Friday, October 31, 2014

Martin County West Saving Trick or Treating for Saturday

The Martin County West High School boy's team is using it's anonymity to its advantage.  While they've been ranked number one in Class A this season, they haven't been featured in the media, have avoided the limelight and familiarity that often comes with a number one ranking.

All the while one of the team members, who coach Stanetta Svoboda says has been nicknamed "the Stats Guy," uses his skills to track the competition.  Who is running well?  What kind of times have they run?  He's encyclopedic and accurate, says Svoboda.  "We want to know our competition," she says. Stats man is not one of the top seven, so doing the research is his way of contributing to the success of the team.
The team with their Section trophy. From L to R: Back row Nick Holm,
Chris Kahler, Jonah Mayo, Dylan Brockman, Matt Viesselman
Front Row: Assistant coach Jeff Mayo,  Ramon Bowie, Dawson Burkhart,
Josh Bjerken, Carson Kahler, coach Stanetta Svoboda.

The internet has been a great tool, enabling the compilation of information that would have been too time consuming to put together otherwise.  "He's picking (Joe) Klecker to win (the Class AA boy's individual title)," she says.  Running is not just about the numbers, though, Svoboda tries to instill in the team members a respect for one another and an appreciation of those around them.  She has them shake hands with the other team's runners, as well as the meet officials, the men and women who make the races possible.

"Be humble," she tells them as their achievements have grown.  It wasn't that long ago that the team had never won their conference meet, let alone Section or State honors.  The current team is a very close knit bunch, says Svoboda, with most of the current team having been together since seventh grade. Two of those then seventh graders were on the first team that won the school's first conference title. 

They have repeated as conference champions every year since.  The first win was a big confidence builder, the spark that began the climb to where they are now.  Svoboda does not focus on the accolades, however, the number one rankings, the race victories.  Her mantra is simple and fits in well with her emphasis on humility.  She often holds team meetings in the school's cafeteria where she tells them: "This (sport) is not easy.  If it were easy this entire cafeteria would be full."  Instead she has 42 students out for the two teams(boy's and girl's), each dedicated to meeting the challenges the sport presents.

She urges them to "study the sport," analyze, learn from your mistakes, and change the things you need to, support one another.  The closeness of the team was illustrated recently when a graduate was getting married.  She was having a "country wedding" and wanted this year's team members to participate as servers.  "It was so neat," says Svoboda of the experience.  She has been coaching at the school since 1988 and one reason for that longevity is experiences like this that transcend the sport.

"Kids will say to me 'Thanks for the impact you've made on my life.' What I hope they take away is to remember to be good citizens."  As part of that Martin County West administrators have allowed her to bring the entire team to the State Meet when they qualify, not just the ones who will be running in the races.  So the team will go to the pep rally being held for them this morning, then make the two hour drive to Northfield, check out the course, and spend Halloween at their lodgings.  They'll save the trick or treating for Saturday.

"We just have to run our race.  Everybody needs to figure out what their role is."  No matter how it all unfolds, what place they achieve, "the sun will come up tomorrow."  The memories will be there. The lessons learned.  The next challenge awaits.

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