State Champions Once Again


Twitter: @SandburgCC

Sandburg boy’s cross country team after winning Nike Midwest Champions race.

Matthew Gaspardo & Renna Abozir, Sports editor

Sandburg boys cross country has done it again- they have brought yet another state trophy back to Sandburg. After being ranked number one in the state all season, it only seemed a matter of time before the team brought home the state championship. Led by senior Declan Tunney, Sandburg posted a score of 130. This was 45 points ahead of the second place team, Hinsdale Central. To prove just how dominant they were- there were twenty eight total teams in the race, and the last place team finished with a score that was more than six times greater than the Eagles. This team was destined to win state, and they did not disappoint, grabbing their second state title in the past seven years.
“Junior year, meets were different, practice was different, things were a little weird,” said Tunney, reflecting last year’s Covid-19 restrictions and regulations.
Last year, the team was not able to advance past sectionals due to the pandemic, much to the disappointment of many team members. But bouncing back from this, the team demonstrated an unparalleled sense of resilience, even using the unfamiliar pandemic schedule to their advantage.
Tunney said, “Covid definitely created a bond for us. Coaches weren’t always around so we had to meet up on our own to run, so I think that really connected us even more.”
“We envisioned this for a long time that this was gonna be a good year for us,” said Senior Brock Rice, reflecting on his experience competing in Peoria, “It was a relief making it, but the main goal was winning. We just went in with the mindset of winning.”
Success like this didn’t come out of the blue. The team trained constantly to get their bodies in the condition they needed to be in to win. At some practices, the team would run short, low mileage sprints that were designed to simply make them run faster. Other days, they would run long distances, up to fourteen miles, that were meant to help get them in the condition that a three mile race seemed easy.
This bond and shared drive to win also fostered some healthy competition between the team members.
“When we do workouts or long runs, we try to get the other guy to fall off the run by pushing the pace a little bit, so its competitive,” said Rice with a laugh, “Everyday we just compete in workouts, and we got a big group of guys that are all around each other. We’re competitive so we just treat it like another practice when we’re out there racing.”
They also did not just focus on running. They would do designed workouts that helped them be athletes, not just runners. This included jumping exercises, different planes of motion stretches, different strength exercises, and then all out sprints. Not only did this make them faster, but it also built up the resilience of their bodies that they need to stay healthy.
Outside of practice, the team’s runners were constantly watching what they eat. Coach O’Malley stressed living a healthy lifestyle that would set his team up to succeed. Not only did that include his runner’s diets, but also how much sleep they were getting every night. This was vital to the ability for the boy’s bodies to rest and recover so they were ready for practice the next day. Inside and outside of practice, the team put in the work that is needed out of a state champion.
Aside from this, they were able to stay motivated because of the sense of community the team members feel with each other, as well as their shared goals. Members of the team were all dedicated to taking the team as far as possible, and their collective effort seems to be a driving force for their motivation.
As Declan Tunney put it, “We’re all super connected, and we were all on a similar page. We all know the goal, from the day we started, and we knew we all wanted to win state, like even in June or July. The fact that we were all able to focus at times, and also be kids and enjoy the process– It’s super fun what we were able to do.”
When a team is ranked number one in the state, it is pretty fun, no matter the sport. However, Coach O’Malley made a conscious effort to try and keep his team motivated and engaged with their running. The team did not refer to their effort in practice as working hard, rather as having fun, doing something that they loved with their friends.
“It’s hard to put it into words how special it was,” said Tunney. “I changed a ton from the sport, and I improved, but I got stronger mentally too. I was able to win with these guys, which was super cool, and I’m super happy to have been a part of it.”
A lot of people would say that running is “boring”, but the team thinks of it as the exact opposite. They believe that they are blessed to be able to run, and because of that blessing, they should be able to bring passion and energy to every practice. Telling stories and socializing with teammates is a big part of how the team was able to stay engaged day in and day out. This approach allowed for a positive, passionate culture and environment at every practice.
Declan Tunney, Sean Marquardt, and Brock Rice all finished with sub fifteen three miles, which allowed them all to finish top twenty in the state. The team did not stop there though. They then traveled to the Nike Midwest Invitational. Where they also came first, clinching an undefeated season. This team might be the most dominant team in Sandburg sports history, as no one came close to beating them. They lifted everyone’s spirits as they walked across the football field carrying their state trophy high.
Coach O’Malley said it best when he tweeted, “It appears we battled this pandemic together and are state champions.