By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The last time a Stillwater High School cross country runner won an individual state championship, Stillwater senior Noah Gade wasn’t even born.
But as Gade crossed the finish line for the final time as a Pioneer runner, it wasn’t so much excitement as it was a relief that four years of hard work finally paid off.
“Mostly it was just a relief for me,” Gade said after Saturday’s race. “That last stretch is nerve-racking. You just want to cross and solidify it and get it over with. I was just blessed and it felt great — it’s just been awesome.”
With a time of 15:30.84, Gade became the first Stillwater High School runner to win state since Tyler Echelle did it in 1989.
“Any time you win a title, it takes a while to sink in,” Stillwater coach Dan Zeroski said. “To get to say that you’re the best runner in the state of Oklahoma is a big achievement and a big title to hold. We knew he was going to win it because we knew what type of training and what time he could run. He might not be real excited, but it will sink in eventually.”
As with any state championship, Gade had his fair share of obstacles to overcome — mostly his desire to run every race for the Pioneers. But with a special training program designed by Zeroski, Gade’s patience paid off.
“It was a little tough at first, seeing my teammates race early in the season,” Gade said. “I sort of had to be patient for races I was entered in, but it definitely paid off. I credit coach Zeroski. The training worked perfectly and it was a good thing that we did back off a little bit more with the racing in the early season.”
“He knew that he didn’t have to improve,” Zeroski said. “It was just like Oklahoma State before the Big 12 championship. They only raced twice this year before that. He understands the concept that he doesn’t have to race every weekend to keep motivated. He could do without racing to keep motivated. He had one goal in mind and he achieved that.”
The different training schedule may have been a contributing factor to Gade’s state championship run, but Zeroski also credits Gade’s competitive fire with holding off Jenks’ Cody Jones in the final few meters.
“All three (state champions) I had all had one thing in common — they were kind of overachievers,” Zeroski said. “They were all going to do whatever it takes to win. Noah is the exact same way. He will do whatever it takes to win.”
The state championship may not have hit Gade yet, but the fact that he won’t run for Stillwater again has.
“It started to sink in that it was my last cross country race in a Stillwater uniform,” Gade said. “It’s been a great four years with great teammates and great coaches. Things will definitely be different, but it’s been fun.”
Gade’s career as a Pioneer may be over but with a regional and national meet still to come, Gade hopes to make new strides not just for Stillwater but the entire state of Oklahoma.
“I’m really excited,” Gade said. “No Oklahoma runner has ever finished in the top 10 at the Foot Locker regional and made it to the national meet in San Diego. I guess I hope to break that streak and become the first Oklahoma runner to do that. It’s going to be tough. It’s a big race, but I’m looking forward to it. It will be a fun challenge.”
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