A midseason tragedy brought the already tight Summit Country Day boys cross country team even closer together. The trying season ended on a positive note, as the Silver Knights placed second in the Division III state meet on Nov. 1. It was the highest finish in program history.
“The kids really came together and rallied around one another,” said head coach Kurtis Smith. “They showed how strong we are. We really banded together as a family.”
The bonds were strengthened after the early October death of assistant coach Casey Wilson. The team was affected by the loss, and the Silver Knights seniors took it upon themselves to carry their teammates through the adversity.
“Casey was like an older brother to us,” said senior John Murdock. “I was really proud of our guys and how we rallied.”
Murdock finished fourth in the state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron with a time of 16:09.51. His teammate and classmate Mason Moore, the Division III regional champion, placed sixth with a time of 16:18.82. It was the third state meet for both runners. The Silver Knights placed fifth in 2012, then fourth in 2013. The individuals’ previous best finishes came last season, when Moore placed 25th and Murdock placed 31st. This year, the duo worked together and kept pace with the champion, Maplewood’s Tristan Dahmen.
“I was working with Mason most of the race,” said Murdock. “We made our move into the wind. On the final turn, we really started to kick in to high gear.”
Their teamwork was a result of a year of training together. Murdock joined Moore on the track team in the spring. Being pushed by one another in the spring season helped both runners prepare for this cross country season. They finished 1-2 at the regional meet, leading the Silver Knights to a regional championship.
“We’ve been working really hard together for a while now,” said Murdock. “It’s been an incredible journey.”
After enjoying unseasonably warm weather at the regional meet, the runners woke up the day of the state meet to see snowflakes falling. By race time, the temperature rose above freezing, but not by much.
“It was pretty brutal,” said Smith. “Overall, the kids responded pretty well.”
The high stakes did not affect the Silver Knights. Even though it was the final race for Moore, Murdock, and classmate Grady Stuckman, the team felt little pressure heading into the race. The regular season helped prepare them to compete against the best runners in Division III.
“We headed into it like it was just a normal race,” said Murdock. “We’ve run in so many big races already.”
The Silver Knights were aiming for a third straight top-five finish at state. Expectations were high, and the squad realized their goal of improving on the past two seasons’ finishes.
“We were really confident in the group all year,” said Smith. “It was a great day. It’s always nice to keep moving up.”
The family atmosphere that this team cultivated helped each individual compete. After enduring a loss bigger than any race, they felt comfortable competing for one another. The results were a happy byproduct of this team’s passion for running as a family.
“We wanted to race for our team,” said Moore. “No matter what happened, we knew that we had each other’s backs.”