ENID, Okla. —
Chisholm sophomores Tommy Grebe and Ryan Tom’s mental toughness may have been the key for the duo earning All-State honors at last week’s Class 3A cross country state championships.
Grebe went from 20th as a freshman to fourth with a time of 16:44 over the 5K course. That was one second under his goal. Tom went from 40th to 10th with a 17:11.
“Last year, we were so overwhelmed by state,’’ Grebe said. “This year, we treated it as another race and that really helped.’’
“I was a lot more relaxed,’’ Tom said. “It was a really important race and the pressure was on ... but it was just another race.’’
Both runners felt the impact of new coach Jim Coleman, who has molded Watonga into a cross country power.
Their mileage went up from 10 to 15 miles per week to around 40.
“All the hard work we put in really paid off,’’ Grebe said. “That made the race a lot easier. We worked a lot harder and improved our times.’’
“Our conditioning was better,’’ Tom said. “The mileage training was the best thing for us. We had a lot better stamina and endurance.’’
The two were stronger physically and “learned how to run a race better,’’ Grebe said.
“I’m definitely a smarter runner,’’ Grebe said. “Coach taught us a lot about a race. I’m a lot more mature runner than I was last year.’’
“We divided our race into different times for different distances,’’ Tom said. “It helped me a lot to learn my pace. Being older helps. We had good training. I learned a lot of stuff this year, but I still have a lot of stuff to learn. I’m coming along.’’
Both felt Chisholm qualifying as a team was an asset because of support from teammates.
The two almost ran like one, with each other being the other’s biggest backer.
“There’s no rivalry between us,’’ Grebe said. “Ryan pushed me a lot to run harder. He was great to train with. We both want to help the team out as much as we can.’’
“We’re friends,’’ Tom said. “We compete against each other, but we run our own race. He helped me to become more competitive. We have pushed each other to become more competitive, which has a good effect on the race.’’
Their confidence rose throughout the season.
Grebe had set a preseason goal of making the top 15. He was talking top five, though, before the race.
“All-State became my goal,’’ he said. “I had a better mindset. Confidence helps a lot.’’
Tom admittedly didn’t think about making All-State much until he saw his times dropping.
“As we progressed into the season, I realized I could do it,’’ he said. “Confidence is a huge factor. It helps you run the race better. I was able to drop a lot of time. I was pretty satisfied with it.’’
Both runners had instant chemistry with Coleman, who was able to juggle cross country around his duties as an assistant football coach for the Longhorns.
“He’s not what you would call a demanding coach,’’ Grebe said. “I would say he’s the kind of coach that you really want to run hard for, and perform the best that you can.’’
“He’s really relaxed,’’ Tom said. “He makes you work hard, but you realize you’re doing it because it makes you better.’’
Both said Coleman prepared them well during the week of the race.
“We just kept training,’’ Grebe said. “We just cut down on a few reps. He kept us rested and we were ready to run.’’
Both now are in off-season track, getting ready for the indoor season, which begins in January. Both now talk of trying to beat individual champion Caleb Green of Henryetta.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.