For Jonathan Jahner, winning coach of the year in cross-country, while having the individual state champion and the team title may not be enough.
In the month of October, the Bulldogs won two regional championships, and then added three more trophies at the state championships.
That doesn’t even count a strong third place finish by the girls at the state meet.
But one thing is certain. The Bulldogs have a strong future.
Brian Miller, the individual state Class B champion, is a senior on the squad that raced on the Cooperstown Golf Course.
That means three of the Bulldogs who finished among the top 12 runners in the state will be returning in 2021.
Sophomore Caleb Sarsland was seventh (17:05.2).
He was followed by eighth-grader Taylor Wanner (17:13.1) and sophomore Austin Wanner (17:18.2) placing eleventh and twelfth.
Seventh-grader Jonah Njos placed 25th (18:04.3) while Jaxson Hansey, a junior, came in 38th (18:24.6).
Freshman Karsen Kulseth placed 41st with a time of 18:35.2 for the 5-kilometer course. He was the final runner for the Bulldogs in the meet, which was limited to just seven-man varsity squads.
That means the Bulldogs could have won the title if an individual runner had won the race instead of Miller and the senior had not run. Behind Miller, the second through sixth runners would have scored 88 points that would still have beaten second place team from Hillsboro/Central Valley by five points.
Miller said the race proved one thing. “I think we had the strongest team at state.”
The race proved that.
“The depth of the team really helped. We were really disappointed when the state turned down having 10 runners. We were really disappointed as a team because of COVID, but also missed opportunities for our fellow runners. We knew we were one of the deepest teams. A lot of the teams don’t even have 10 runners,” he said.
That strong showing of depth has the coach looking ahead at the depth he’ll have coming back.
In addition to Miller, senior Noah Wokal won’t be returning in 2021.
But he will have a group of young runners that Jahner hopes to see improve over the next year.
“Caleb, Austin, Taylor... those guys,” the coach said as he considered the strong showing in the state meet by his underclassmen. “We talked to them about where they run on the team... where this guy is a two or that guy is a two. At our region meet, Taylor was our one.
“It is not about where you run on the team, it is about where we are finishing together and how we are doing. They have really bought in all season.
“You can’t get frustrated if you end up the four runner because one of you four is going to be the four runner... You are just going to do it on a really dang good team,” the coach said.
“When we get them to buy into not feeling sorry for being a four runner, good things happen,” he said, pointing to the state team championship.
“Austin ran a heckuva race. He’s the number 12 runner in the state and he is the four runners on our team. Taylor is a three and 11and Caleb ran a great race and finished seventh.
“When you can put that power up top, then you are really tough to beat,” the coach said.
“Those boys just did a phenomenal job (at the state meet). And you throw in Jonah Njos – he is just a seventh grader. I don’t want to say he comes out of nowhere because we have seen it all year. For a seventh grader to end up were he was at the state meet, it was a heckuva run.
“He was strong. He was just picking people off,” the coach added about Njos.
Jahner also gave credit to Hansey. “He set the tone for Jonah and Karsen Kulseth. Jaxsen set that tone early. He’s an upperclassman and a little bit stronger runner. He set that pace early and that is whom Jonah and Karsen keyed off of.
“While Jaxsen didn’t hold onto the five spot, where Jonah ran and where Karsen ran is because of Jaxsen,” the coach said. “They were able to key off of each other.
“Our front four worked really well together and our back three worked really well together. I was really a great race for them.” Jahner said.
One thing the coach was disappointed in was not being able to run ten in the state meet.
“We lose Noah (Wokal). He has been such a staple for us. He’s been an absolute, consummate teammate for us. When they swapped us down to seven at the state meet, my heart broke for Noah. He was our number eight runner and a senior. He has put six hard years in. I know he was crushed. I know it hurt, but he never let it show. We are going to miss that guy (next year),” the coach said. “For three years now, Noah has been an outstanding leader.
“It is time for those other boys to step up. Next year, Caleb and Austin will be juniors, so they’ll be ready for that,” the coach explained.
“I am so looking forward to the growth we are going to see from those guys (returnees).” he added.