That is how long it has been since the Norwalk Truckers boys cross country program has seen a team representative during the state cross country meet. In 2016, that drought has ended as Christopher Mohr, Robert Vazquez, Julian Go, Ethan Bores, Jose Dominguez, Owen Lottman and Nicholas Berry will represent the first boys team at state since 1983.
The deadly seven did it with an amazing accomplishment of sending all seven across the finish line in the Top 56 during the Division II regional meet in Tiffin last weekend. Mohr led the way with a 19th place finish in a time of 17:24.66 with Vazquez right on his heels in 20th with a 17:27.11. Go finished in 27th with a 17:39.98 and Bores took 34th with a 17:48.90. Dominguez finished in 43rd with an 18:06.90, Lottman took 54th with an 18:20.26 and Berry took 56th with an 18:21.18.
The team grabbed the fourth and final spot as a team to advance.
“It feels like a huge accomplishment for the team and for the school,” Mohr said. “We have been waiting so long. All of the training and hill we ran, even though we didn’t want to, has made it all worth it.”
Vazquez is still having a hard time believing his team will be making the trip to Hebron to run the National Trail Raceway with a state title on the line, but admits there is a huge weight off of the team’s shoulders.
“The fact that we worked all season for this huge goal and now we were accomplishing it, it just hit me in the face,” Vazquez said. “We accomplished it and we fan finally move on to state.”
While the Truckers waited 33 years to finally see a boys cross country team make it to state, Bores knows that makes the 2016 team pretty special.
“I think it is so amazing to have that many years go by and we finally did it,” Bores said. “That shows something about our team and how hard we work.”
“Honestly, words cannot explain it,” Norwalk coach Drew Karnehm said of his team’s accomlishment. “It was a goal we set last year as a team and we finished tenth as a team at regionals. We knew we had a great group coming back but we had huge shoes to fill. We knew if we could do that, we could make a push for it this season.”
One of those shoes to fill was Greg Berry, and filling those shoes was younger brother Nicholas who admitted the state meet is a bit of a family affair. With his brother advancing to state as an individual last season and his father being a member of that 1983 state qualifying team, Berry just wanted be the next generation to make it.
“To keep that going through the generations, it makes me very proud,” Berry said. “I think it is really cool to keep up the family tradition.”
The Truckers are a tight knit group in more ways that one. As they all seem like best friends off of the course, they seem even closer on it as they group up together and cross the finish line within seconds of each other.
“It has played a huge role,” Karnehm said. “Between the veterans we had coming back and the new guys mixing in, they just hit it off right away. They pick each other up and push each other when they need to be pushed. It has been a huge strength for our team this year. When one guy falters, there are others there to pick him up.”
While Bores and Go are the normal Top 2 runners, Saturday took a total team effort to bring home the qualifying score. The lack of egos gives Karnehm
“It is a huge luxury,” Karnehm said. “A lot of teams have a No. 1 runner who are “stud runners” and we do not have that this year. We have a solid group who pack up really nice and we have benefitted from it. Ethan and Julian are usually our Top 2 runners, but at regionals, our four and five guys in Mohr and Vazquez stepped it up. Our typical seventh guy (Dominguez) finished fifth. Any one guy can step up for us.”
Go has just one thing on his mind heading into Saturday’s race.
“For a lot of us, it will be about redemption,” Go said. “We want to get out there and get the best times we have ever posted. We have been at this for multiple years now and it is a huge accomplishment for the team.”
Each runner commented on their expectations for Saturday.
“I think we can finish as a Top 10 team in the state,” Vazquez said. “There are some great teams there, but I think that is an achievable goal.”
“I would like to push my pace and go after that personal record like I want to do every race,” Berry said. “But I have very high expectations for us as a team. Top 10 in the state would be amazing.”
“We are just focusing on getting ourself in the right mental state to be able to go out and compete to the fullest,” Go added. “We all have had good races and bad races, but we are looking forward to going out there and showing every one at state what we have.”
As the team prepares throughout the week, a 33-year drought will come to an end on Saturday due to hard work and determination. The Truckers have made it.
“Honestly, words cannot explain it,” Karnehm said. “It was a goal we set last year as a team and we finished tenth as a team at regionals. We knew we had a great group coming back but we had huge shoes to fill. We knew if we could do that, we could make a push for it this season.”
“Every time I think about what we are doing right now, I just realize we are making history for the school and this team,” Go said. “It is just a very exciting time for us.”