Three-peat. It's a word that has been used so often this year that it has become a part of the athletic department nomenclature. For those unfamiliar with the term, though, here's a quick definition: a three-peat is what you get when a team wins all three championships (TCIS, VISAA, and State Catholic) in its season. When that team does this for three years in a row, it is remarkable. When that team also produces the individual champion in all three championships (Troy Gustke), that's something for the history books.
This month, the boys' cross country team received their championship rings in a special ceremony following weekly mass. Parents, coaches and the student body were in attendance. Coach Mike Pilola opened the ceremony with words of praise for the hard work of these young men, and some perspective on the significance of their success:
"Back in the 1990s, the cross country team won TCIS nine times in a row. I had the honor of being on the team starting on the eighth year of that 9-year streak, and in the 9th year I even directly helped a little bit, scoring some points for the team as the fifth man. In the sport of cross country, the top five runners score the race, and I was the fifth man my senior year.
Our team got a plaque, and I got an All-Conference certificate, which my parents framed and hung on the wall in their house. It’s still there.
When I see my All-Conference certificate or my trophy, I smile, but I’m never thinking about the day I earned it. I’m thinking of months leading up to getting it, of the seven-mile runs in the middle of a humid July day where I felt so tempted to give up, but didn’t let myself. Of running to the top of a mountain. Of forgetting my racing shoes and borrowing them from a friend at the last minute, barely getting them strapped on before someone fired the starting pistol.
And more than that, I’m thinking of all of the people that I earned it with. The friends I made on this team were some of the best I’ve ever had, and I’m still in touch with many of them twenty years later. Your friends, the relationships you’ve forged, that’s what you should cherish, more than any physical token. And one other thing: the knowledge that you are stronger than you thought you were. No matter how strong or weak you think you once thought yourself to be, that’s something that any good sport does: it forces you to prove yourself wrong again, and again, and again. It’s a healthy attitude, to challenge yourself to push your limits in healthy ways, towards becoming something better, something more.
That’s why the pride I feel when I look at a trophy, or a banner, or a ring, will always pale in comparison to the pride I feel whenever I see one of you. My runners, going out into the world, being the best version of yourselves. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
When you win TCIS, VCL, and VISAA in the same year, it feels a little like winning the lottery. And when you do that three years in a row, I’m not even sure how to describe that. Maybe like a miracle. But these guys had some outstanding support from the rest of their coaching staff, Coaches Weidman and McKenna. Team moms Mrs. Weidman and Mrs. Fremaux. Mr. Armstrong doing the trail prep work, leading a small army of the very best parent volunteers a coach could ask for, giving so much to this team, supporting it in so many ways. And, of course, these gentlemen, who exist at the intersection hard work and talent and providence."