October 7, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Cross Country welcomes back the greats

This weekend history makers are returning to St. Joseph.

The St. Joseph-Ogden Cross Country team is hosting a reunion of the 1990, 1991 and 1992 state championship cross country teams.

The 1990 state win was groundbreaking. It was the first state championship in cross country, the first state title for any female team, and the first title for any team in SJO history.

“That was the team that kicked the door in and allowed other teams to follow,” said former Cross Country Coach Jim Acklin.

Acklin said captain Ashley Wright was instrumental to the success of the 1990 team.

“She made everyone around her better,” he said.

In 1991 it was the boys’ turn. The team won the first boys’ state title in school history.

“It was a very dominate team,” Acklin said.

They went undefeated, set a state record for low points at a state meet and had a record six all-staters.

“They are the measuring stick against which all other SJO cross country teams are judged,” Acklin said. “Brian Allen was fourth overall at the state meet that year.”

The 1992 boys team were underdogs who didn’t win a major invite until the regional meet and placed third in the sectional.

“They put it all together at the state meet and won the second title in a row by only eight points,” Acklin said.

The team was led by Allen, Rick Walden, and Joel Kary.

Today, the state championship teams will meet current athletes and then be introduced between the first and second quarters of the Homecoming football game. Tomorrow, they will be introduced before the awards ceremony of SJO’s only home cross country meet, the 50th annual Spartan Classic.

“I feel very blessed to have coached so many great people over the years who have gone on to do great things,” Acklin said. “The three state titles in a row was just the icing on the cake.”
Acklin said he anticipates a fun weekend.

“Getting together is always fun, because coaching for me was always about building relationships,” he said. “The success was a lot of fun, but that was secondary to the relationships that are established.”

Acklin said he felt it is important for the current SJO athletes to meet the former state champions because it could show them that state is an attainable goal.

“It is good for current athletes to know that the former greats were once former student-athletes just like them,” he said. “Not super heroes, but just high school student-athletes who were competitive, worked hard, and had a vision.”

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