DARLINGTON — There’s a lot for the Darlington High School cross country team — both current and past members — to celebrate.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of coaching for Arnie Miehe.
Last year was the 25th anniversary for the 1985 boys’ state championship team.
This year in the 25th anniversary of the 1986 boys’ state championship team.
The boys’ team was runner-up at the state contest in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996.
Obviously, the team has racked up a long and impressive list of accomplishments through the years as they’ve pounded the pavement and run their hearts out.
The list goes on and on.
For those reasons and more, a special celebration is planned for Saturday, Aug. 27, the annual alumni cross country meet, at Darlington High School. This year’s event will be on a larger scale than previous years and as many alumni as possible are encouraged to take part in the day’s fun.
“We’re trying to get a lot of former runners and their families back,” said Miehe, who’s thrilled to be able to celebrate what the runners have done to strengthen and grow the program through the years — all the way back to the beginning of the program in 1968.
All of those former and current runners have commonalities, said the veteran coach. They’ve all experienced that first day of practice and workouts. They’ve all had the same doubts, discomfort and eventual pride at making it through.
There are so many memories as Miehe looks back on three decades with the district.
Miehe took over the already impressive cross country program in 1982, following in the footsteps of Steve Karrmann, who launched the program and coached in 1968 and 1969, and then Jim Acherman, who coached from 1970 through the fall of 1981.
Since that time, Miehe has coached — through the end of the 2010 season — 519 runners from 363 families. He has a list, pages long, with several second-generation families, including his own — his wife, Ann, and their children Carly, Hana, Kent and Tyson.
Every name on the pages of that list brings back memories.
Each season — all 30 of them — are a chapter he’s written, not on paper, but in the pages of his mind.
For Miehe, the most rewarding aspect of coaching has been watching the team members learn about themselves and discover they can achieve more than they thought they could. He’s watched as they take the lessons from the cross country track and apply them to their day-to-day lives.
Miehe once had a former student tell him that after finishing the freshman year of cross country, she believed she could do anything.
It’s been inspiring to watch as students — those students who perhaps aren’t the most ambitious — become a little faster, gain a bit more ambition and drive. Those are the important things, said Miehe, and he learned that early on in his career, after four years into his stint as coach, the team won the state meet. It was a struggle, for a time, to chart a path from there. He had to take a step back and look at the bigger picture — beyond the wins.
“Running is a very small part of cross country,” noted Miehe, who was inducted into the coaches’ hall of fame in 2005.
Miehe loves that students get involved in the cross country program and everyone participates. No matter where the runners come out at the finish line, everyone gains from the lessons they’ve learned and the confidence they take from the experience. “Everybody learns the same,” said Miehe. “It’s you versus you.”