Runners call it, "Pulling a Billy Mills".
It’s the phenomenon when a team or individual absolutely shocks the world (or state, in this case) and runs away with an unexpected championship.
At the 2013 State Cross Country Meet at Robbinsdale Park, spectators, teams, fans and everyone else in sight saw Todd County come out of thin air to win the Class A Boys State Championship by one point over Flandreau.
This is what state meets are all about. It’s not what’s on paper before-hand that counts, rather it’s what’s in the heart and soul of the team on race day.
In the final SD.MileSplit.Com coaches poll there was just a single vote for the Todd County Falcons.
The top five schools in the rankings, led by pre-meet favorite Custer, each had 14-16 votes cast by cross country coaches throughout South Dakota.
The one vote Todd County received in the final coaches poll (and it’s a shame to admit that I thought someone accidentally clicked the wrong box when I analyzed the totals) was for First Place.
Someone out there believed in Todd County.
Tonya Whirlwind Soldier is the Head Coach at Todd County and Steve Her Many Horses is her assistant. Steve was a stand-out runner himself back in the day; Tonya runs and has been a successful coach, leading several Todd County squads to top spots. She coached her son Marc to a dominating State title in 2009.
I saw Tonya briefly before the start of the boy’s race and she was her usually friendly self, asking about my family and how things were going. Steve was out with some kids looking at the course. Standing in line for the porta-potty, I chatted with Kernit Grimshaw, the “photo guy” from Todd County (also the dad to former state champion, Lottie). We talked a bit about Tobias Weddell, Todd County’s number one runner.
Tobias had been battling a knee injury throughout the season and in the back of my mind I didn’t really see him or the Falcons as contenders for any of the Top 4 podium spots.
I, along with everyone outside of the one coach who clicked “Todd County” as the best boys Class A team, was wrong.
In Tobias Weddell’s SD.MileSplit.Com’s featured athlete profile, he said his goals for the season were, “Top 5 at state…and Top 3 as a Team.”
Well, Weddell ran out of his mind and placed 5th. Gabriel Red Kettle, who I am sure no one had tabbed as a Top 25 guy, grabbed a podium spot with his 22nd place finish. Then the Falcons had a couple of young guys run the races of their lives as Don Aquallo was 30th and John Hacker placed 45th. Daniel Whirlwind Soldier and Sylvan White Hat were the pushers.
And that was that. Twenty five minutes after the starting gun, results were tabulated and the Todd County Falcons had stunned the Class A Cross Country world.
The moral of the story?
It’s the quote we see on all of the Billy Mills posters and the mindset that the Todd County coaches and runners had entering this season’s state meet.
“Believe. Believe. Believe.”
Congratulations, Falcons, because on Saturday, you “pulled a Billy Mills”.