By Crystal Thompson
Second is still sweet. That was the sentiment of the ceremony held for the 2nd place KG High School boys' cross country team before the girl's basketball game in Gildford Thursday night.
After four consecutive years of winning the state title, KG, one of the hi-line's most recognized cross country teams in recent years came up short to tough opponent Plenty Coups last Saturday.
Coach Paul Andersen led this fairly new team of runners to State once again this year, even after losing four of his top six runners last year to graduation. Andersen said he was pleased with what this year's team achieved. "To have a brand new team and do this good is just great," Andersen said. The 2000 KG Cross Country Team consisted of Scott Dees, Aaron Smith, Justus Wendland, Deven Donoven, Thomas Marshall, and Luke Antonich.
During the ceremony, Andersen introduced the runners and praised them for training hard and improving their times over the course of the year. Andersen seemed confident that next year's team would once again exceed his expectations. Coach Andersen said that although junior Aaron Smith, who led the team with a second place finish overall, was disappointed that he did not come in first, his willingness to try harder next year is what makes him a phenomenal athlete. "That's what makes an athlete," he said, "just getting up and trying again." Andersen told the audience that the team's motto this year was a quote by world-class runner Steve Prefontaine, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
Perhaps the most moving moment of the ceremony was when senior Scott Dees took the microphone and thanked Coach Andersen for his encouragement and support during his high school career, both in sports and in the classroom. Andersen teaches 7-12th grade science at KG High.
Dees presented Coach Andersen with a medal with the words "Thanks Coach Andersen" engraved on the back. This is Andersen's seventh year as teacher and coach in the KG school system, and he boasts two state championships in track and four state championships in cross country, with the second place trophy being added to the collection this year. The crowd showed their appreciation with a standing ovation in honor of Andersen.
Afterwards, KG supporter Joyce Donoven presented the runners with framed photos of the entire team, and once again expressed her pride for the group. "I think one of the most remarkable things about this team is that as soon as they stepped down from receiving their second place medals, they went straight to the Plenty Coups kids with their hands out to congratulate them," Donoven said, "I think that says a lot."
As the only senior runner, Scott Dees, said that he was pleased with his final cross country performance as a high school athlete. "I am happy with my performance," Dees said, "My goal was to improve my time all year, and I did that." Dees, who came in 17th at last weekend's meet, said that the team went into state knowing that Plenty Coups would offer stiff competition.
"We were going in there to do our best," Dees said. "We knew Plenty Coups was going to be hard, and they were, but they deserved to win. We were just psyched and ready to do our best."