By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There’s just something about cross country that separates it from other sports. Maybe it’s the miles of running in solitude or the fact that it takes more a little more endurance than other sports.
Perhaps that’s also why cross country has caught on like wildfire in Perry.
“We’re very proud of how our other teams do,” Perry cross country coach Ron Dwyer said. “The thing about cross country is it’s a different kind of sport and we tend to get different kind of kids. Cross country is really a mixture. We’ve got kids that play basketball for me, we’ve got a lot of kids that wrestle. We got a lot of kids that are in band and drama. You just never know where you’re going to get those kids that can run well for you.”
Dwyer may not know exactly why the numbers were up this year, but he has an idea. Ever since the Perry girls had success at the state meet last season, it seems like everybody has wanted to be a part of the cross country team.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Dwyer said. “The girls team made it to state last year, and I think a lot of the kids just saw what they were doing and saw the boy that made it to state, then they got interested in it. Word got around and we had several people that came out and it ended up helping us.”
Most Class 3A cross country coaches are hoping just to have enough bodies to fill a roster. Dwyer had a different challenge this year — trying to get the most out of each new runner to compete for a state title.
And while the Maroons and Lady Maroons weren’t able to bring back the school’s first title, both teams did finish seventh — far exceeding the expectations set at the beginning of the year.
“They exceeded our expectations,” Dwyer said. “We had good runners coming back, but several we had to replace. We had several girls come out for the first time that competed really well. … As far as the boys go, we had several freshmen that came in and stepped up and placed really well in the state meet as well as all season long for us.”
It didn’t hurt that Dwyer did have guys like Colton Looper — one of those famed Perry wrestler — joining the team this season. It also didn’t hurt that Looper used that same mentality for wrestling on the course, finishing sixth in the state meet.
But for all the runners like Looper that made Dwyer’s job easy, there were others that he had to push along — a push that began even before school started.
“We started back on July 15th, so we were running well over a month before we actually went to a meet,” Dwyer said. “I thought by what I was seeing over the summer that we had a chance to be quite a bit better than we were last year.”
If success breeds success like it has in the past for Dwyer, there’s little doubt Dwyer’s Perry squads will once again be in the hunt for another trip to state next season — maybe with even more wrestlers and other athletes joining the squad.
“Colton has really helped open some doors that weren’t there before,” Dwyer said. “We’ve got a number of kids that are going to be wrestling next year that are really interested in coming and running cross country for us because they watched what Colton did this year.”
Even if he can’t bring Perry back to state, just knowing more kids are getting active and finding a healthy activity is perhaps a greater reward than any trophy that can be won.
“Honestly, I feel like cross country is a growing sport,” Dwyer. “It’s a sport that so many kids would enjoy. There’s been a lot of emphasis over the last few years on running and the benefits to your health. We’ve only been out of season for about three weeks now and I hear they’re already out running, trying to stay in shape and getting ready for next year. It’s just a health conscious sport that’s going to help these kids for a lifetime and not just three or four years.”