When Steven moved up to the high school, I moved up to coaching at the high school. I was lucky enough to coach Steven for two years on the Sierra track, then four years on the Chaparral track. (We joke that he and some of his other classmates are sitting on a gold mine, a book about six years of Sep coaching scarred them for life... inside joke I guess.) Steven was an incredible runner at Chaparral, illustrating the same qualities he had in middle school. He was usually the last to leave practice, he believed in his training and the plan, he did all of the little things to make him better than his competitors. I will never forget breaking down in tears of joy after finding out he hit the automatic qualification time at Hinkley in the two mile. That was a four year quest for Steven, and to reach his goal, in the last race of the regular season was really special. Steven certainly came a long way from his middle school days.
However, he has developed into an even better runner over at Drury under Coach Van Arkel. He certainly wasn't a top 50 runner in the nation when he left CHS, he is that now. Looking at the results of the Colorado kids in the Div. II championships, I can't help but to marvel at the excellent performances of these athletes. I am thinking more and more that Div. I athletics might not be the best place for a lot of our HS athletes. Look at how well these kids run, how well they do in school, and how well they develop into young adults at the "lower" division. I am not knocking the Div. I level, I was lucky enough to compete at that level. (Not very well, but I competed.) What I see these days, however, is the Div. II scene seems to be a lot more conducive to producing well-rounded athletes with a sense of perspective who not only achieve on the playing field, but in all other areas of life to. Maybe this in a huge over-generalization, but I see a lot of Div. I runners transferring to Div. II schools and doing really, really well. Not just in running, but in all areas of life. College is tough, it is a huge transition for people. Finding a place to be able to develop into your true self that is a safe environment is not an easy task. These smaller Div. II schools might be the first place to look.
This fall, just like in the first season of his XC career waaaaay back at Sierra, Steven improved every race, he was a true leader to his teammates, and he was an inspiration to everyone he interacted with. I can say that Steven has convinced me to get back to training again, and if he can get me off the couch, I am sure he was pushing and cajoling his teammates to race their tails off. Steven has changed considerably, but he essentially is the same kid he was in middle school. A little taller, a little faster, maybe a little more worldly, but he is still a leader, a driven competitor, and the hardest worker on the team. Congratulations, Steve-O, you have left your mark on all of us, you're an extraordinary runner, but an even more amazing person. You deserve every accolade you receive, and I feel blessed to have been able to coach you.