MONTICELLO — There's power in numbers and this year's Monticello boys cross country team is proof.
Sages coach Dave Remmert, who coaches both the boys and girls teams at Monticello, has seen the program grow as it continues to have success at state.
"This was the largest team that I’ve ever coached — boys and girls combined we had 42 total," he said. "It was also the deepest boys team I have ever had. Between varsity and near-varsity runners I had a good number of runners so I had the ability to interchange some people without having to worry too much about our standings."
At this year's Class 1A state cross country meet, Remmert's boys team finished third for its third state trophy in the past six seasons, making Remmert the Herald & Review Area Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year.
The Sages' performance at state was led by senior Garrett Dixon who finished second overall with a time of 14:56. That was Dixon's best time at the state meet and he led for much of the second and third miles before being passed by gold medal winner Christopher Collet from Seneca.
"I know (Garrett) is disappointed but that is kind of how he is — he wants to win. I wish things could have turned out a little bit better but to be in that kind of position with 300 meters to go is phenomenal," Remmert said. "He has more drive than any runner I have ever coached. Seeing him run as a freshman all the way through his senior year, he really matured this last year."
To complement Dixon's senior leadership, Remmert had to rely on underclassmen to earn a trophy at state.
"It was an intermingling of a very talented group of sophomores with a good numbers of seniors. It was nice to have some young runners intermixed with some experienced runners," Remmert said.
Following Dixon's second-place finish, a group of three Sages runners finished 62nd (sophomore Luke Sokolowski), 63rd (senior Josiah Ratts) and 64th (sophomore Morgan Dixon), all with a time of 15:59.
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"I was really pleased overall — that grouping was particularly good for us. Getting all three of them under 16 minutes was critical," Remmert said. "At the (MacArthur) Sectional it was the first meet that I could see they were really starting to rally together. Luke was in this gap between Garrett and the rest of the team and the team started getting closer to Luke, which was exactly what I wanted to see."
Remmert has helped Dixon develop into an elite runner and Dixon has no doubt Remmert is one of the hardest working cross country coaches in the state.
"One of our former runners didn’t think coach had a regular job because he spends so much time with us," Dixon said, laughing. "He is really, really intelligent and has an incredible work ethic. I think his coaching methods are unlike most coaches. I don’t think any other coaches do as much in-depth research as he does.
"He’s probably one of the nicest people I know and he is very approachable and conscious of how people are feeling."
Remmert stresses building a team dynamic that relies upon the racers building each other up.
"Like any season we had some ups and downs and getting the team to step up when the time was needed and being able to rely on each other," Remmert said. "That all starts with building the culture of the team — that it’s more than just getting out there and running. There is a culture around the sport that centers on building relationships with each other and not letting your teammates down."
With 10 senior boys graduating, the Sages will have their work cut out for them in returning to state so Remmert is appreciating this team's accomplishments.
"We were ranked No. 1 through a good portion of the season and I think if you ask our runners I think some of them would say they were disappointed with the outcome," Remmert said. "But I think anytime you can go to a state meet with a group of younger runners and reach the podium that is pretty special."