In 2019, the JPII girls cross country team won the first ever athletic state championship in school history.
In 2018 we organized the first-ever girl's cross-country team at Pope John Paul II High School (JPII for short) in Lacey, Washington. In their first year of competition, the JPII girls qualified for the state cross country championships.
By the next cross country season in 2019, the girls were Washington State Cross Country Champions upsetting the three-time defending state cross country champions. This was the first state athletic championship of any kind at JPII. The school is ten years old.
Some of the girls on the JPII team had never run before joining the cross country team or they had never run cross-country before. It was amazing to witness the team's incredible transformation in such a short time frame. Their hard work, determination, and faith was a thing of beauty to watch over the following months. To see each team member's self-confidence grow each week was an amazing blessing.
All of the girls on the team are very different with unique abilities on and off the sports field. What they accomplished with their combined abilities was nothing short of incredible to watch.
The JPII girls are believed to be the first team to win a state championship in only their second year of existence. This cannot be verified for certain because the state records don't list every team's initial start date. Regardless, they are the first team in recent memory to accomplish this goal.
Like any other great team, the JPII girls had their share of ups in downs in their state championship season. They had many high points but also experienced low points where they persevered and had to pick themselves up again. Like one parent said, "you don't have to be perfect to win a championship". You just need to keep working hard and smart, learn from your mistakes and have faith that it will all work out in the end.
The girls picked themselves up when they had challenges by praying together and honestly talking through their different situations. Grace amid struggle was the centerpiece of this team in their championship journey.
Whenever the girls did well, they almost always stopped what they were doing and prayed together giving thanks for the incredible blessings they received. They also congratulated other teams in defeat or victory and were gracious and humble about what they accomplished.
The story of the state championship race itself was like something out of a movie script but it was real life.
At mile one in the 5k race, the girls were in third place. They had gone out conservative and wanted to run the first part of the race smart and within their capabilities. By mile two, they had moved up to second place behind the three-time defending state champions.
With 1000 meters to go, every girl on the varsity seven pushed the pace like never before. They all ran their hearts out in the last 1000 meters of the race. It was amazing to watch such a young team carry out their race plan in the most pressure-packed race of the year.
We knew the race was close at the finish line. The defending state champs knew it was close as well. When it was announced that we had won, there were tears of happiness and joy on our team. The three-time state champs were an amazing class act as well. They were outstanding in their graciousness and sportsmanship after the announcement was made.
The team celebration ensued all the way to our team dinner that night. It was a time to give thanks and celebrate the many blessings of a great season.
The life lessons of the 2019 season were priceless. Never let others define what is possible in life. Just because it's never been done before does not mean it can't be done now. Never lose faith when things get tough. Keep pursuing big dreams. And, recognize no journey is ever perfect. Grace and mid-course corrections are always a part of the journey no matter what you do or where you are in life.
What an amazing season ladies! It is one I'll always remember as your coach. I am so thankful and blessed that I came out of retirement to be a part of your journey! Congrats on being the first team in school history to win a state championship!
The JPII boys and girls teams at State. The girls won and the boys placed second at state.