By Nick Snow
EDMOND, Okla. —
It’s been 22 years since a Stillwater High School cross country runner has come home with an individual state title.
Stillwater senior Noah Gade put that streak to an end Saturday in Edmond. Gade finished first with a time of 15:30.84, becoming the eighth Pioneer to win a state championship and the first since Tyler Echelle did it in 1989.
“I knew it was the last chance for me,” Gade said. “Essentially it was this year or never. ... It means a lot to me. It’s a perfect way to end my cross country career at Stillwater High School. It’s just been awesome.”
“It’s always nice to win a state championship,” coach Dan Zeroski said. “That’s the third one since I’ve been here. Each one is unique and I’m extremely proud of Noah and all that he’s accomplished. We knew he was going to get it. I don’t think anyone else did, but we did.”
Gade’s first-place finish helped the Pioneers finish 10th as a team with 255 points, 29 points behind Norman North. At the beginning of the week, Zeroski had hoped for a 10th-place finish, but after Saturday’s meet he was pleasantly surprised by how his team performed.
“Everything that could go wrong went wrong this week,” Zeroski said. “Zach Porterfield was our No. 2 runner and he was sick this morning so he could not run. Conner (Akin), one of our varsity runners, sprained an ankle. We just had a bunch of things like that happen.”
Senior Sam Smith finished 46th with a time of 17:01.83, while sophomore Bo Frohock finished in 17:22.40 for 66th place. Freshman Jay Ogle began his career at state by finishing 90th with a time of 17:57.92, while senior Jake Meyer rounded out Stillwater’s scoring with a time of 18:01.65 to finish 93rd overall.
Junior Connor Akin and senior Max DeGroot also ran for the Pioneers but did not score. Akin finished 98th with a time of 18:23.55, while DeGroot was 105th with a time of 18:35.35.
“The team ran great, all of them did,” Gade said. “Sam Smith ran a great race. He overcame a lot this year. He had a stress fracture that started at the jamboree and he fought through it and did all that he could. Bo Frohock ran really well as well. The whole team just ran really well and I’m really proud of them.”
The team may have come up short in the competition, but the Pioneers didn’t leave Edmond empty handed. For the second straight year, Stillwater won the academic championship.
“We may not have the fastest kids in the state, but we showed that we have some of the smartest,” Zeroski said. “These kids work so hard in the classroom, so it’s nice that they were able to repeat.”