For a city accustomed to winning championships, Saturday was still a first.
The New Haven boys cross country team won the state championship in Class 1 at the Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City, the first state title in the program’s history, joining the many titles the school has earned in other sports.
New Haven took the title with a team score of 94, beating out runners-up Hermitage by 10 points.
The Shamrocks had two individual medalists in the event — Joseph Rethemeyer, who finished 11th with a time of 17:35.71, and Nathan Ford, 18th in 17:49.07.
Another area school, Fulton School (St. Albans), had an individual medalist in the race, Elliott Voelkel, who finished fifth at 17:13.65.
New Haven Head Coach John Tucker said it wasn’t until heading into the third mile that he knew his team was in the hunt for the championship.
“In the first mile, I was a little nervous,” Tucker said. “We were a little not quite where we normally are, but then by the second mile we started to move into the positions that we’re used to being in. The boys just ran really well. All seven of them did. Tim Madden kind of struggled in the first mile, but the back three runners really picked up the pace for us and it really took all seven to do what we did, for sure.”
Ford was up in the top five for the first mile. Rethemeyer caught up to him in the second mile as the two remained in the top 10 at that point.
“It was tough,” Rethemeyer said. “Nathan did good and really got out early and got out with their front guys and got good position. I was kind of behind and had to play catch-up at the start.”
After the scores were made official, Rethemeyer said he couldn’t explain how much the accomplishment meant.
“It’s crazy,” Rethemeyer said. “It’s the school’s first cross country state champion. They’re going to have rearrange everything in the gym for us because there’s no more wall space. That’s the best part. I don’t even know — it’s awesome.”
Teammate Martin Lewis found the words.
“It means the world,” Lewis said. “We sweat our butts off in practice. There’s no better feeling than running with the guys that you worked your butt off with all season with and cross that finish line.”
After the first two runners from New Haven and Hermitage crossed, the teams were tied with 19 points apiece. The Nos. 3 and 4 runners gave them some separation from the field, at that point holding a 20 point lead over the Hornets.
Madden and Lewis were both very near the individual medal bubble. Lewis ran 27th, two positions away from the medal cut, with a time of 18:01.46. Madden finished 29th in 18:06.18.
“They had to get close to the top 25,” Tucker said. “We actually thought going into it that we needed all four of them in the top 25 to win. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, but it all worked out.”
The Shamrocks’ No. 5 runner Dominic Lewis sealed the win, finishing 71st overall in 18:58.66, but counting as 44 points toward the team total.
The last two New Haven runners weren’t far behind as Austin Tegeler finished 74th in 19:04.23 and Dalton Gerdes 98th in 19:30.32.
The Fulton School’s only other qualifying runner, Jace Cavness, ran 51st with a time of 18:38.97.
Tucker said the Shamrocks run other races on courses meant to prepare for this one course and one race in particular, the Borgia Invitational at Big Driver, serves as a test of how the team can run at state.
“All season we train for this course and a lot of places we go to are to get ready for this,” Tucker said. “Big Driver — Borgia’s race. That’s getting ready for this. Going to Jefferson Barracks. We talk a lot about how you run the hills and we work on how you run the hills at state, so really all season long we’re preparing for this.”
The team has a pair of seniors — Ford and Gerdes. The team has qualified for state each year of their careers. Five Shamrocks runners came into the meet with pervious state experience. The team had finished either third or fourth in each of the past three seasons.
“We’ve been here enough times now that that experience really helps just being able to relax,” Tucker said. “We were lucky and fortunate this year to be in a position where if we just went out and ran like we were capable of running, we were going to be close to winning.”
Along with a victory parade, the Shamrocks left the capital with some rearranging to plan to find space for their new hardware.
“That trophy case is getting full and they’re going to have to find some room on the wall,” Tucker said. “New Haven is a pretty fortunate community to have that many state titles.”