Bison track record lives for another day -- barely

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Steve Kodad/McCook Daily Gazette McCook junior Austin Cherry crosses the finish line in the Class B 800-meter run at the state track meet in Omaha May 19. Cherry finished second in the two-lap race at state for a second straight year, and he came up just short of the Bison school record held by his brother Josh.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Perhaps one of the friendliest feuds in the annals of sports history continues at McCook High School.

Bison junior Austin Cherry has waged an assault on the school's track and field record book, at least in the 800-meter run. Cherry came within a blink of breaking the record during a strong performance at the 2012 Nebraska Class B State Championships at Omaha Burke Stadium Saturday, May 19.

There's no doubt that the current record holder in the 800 would be the first in line to congratulate Austin if and when he eclipses that record -- and likely the first to prank him while he is fast asleep at home in his bed the next night. The McCook school record in the two-lap race is currently held by Josh Cherry, former Kansas State football kicker and Austin's older brother.

Steve Kodad/McCook Daily Gazette Austin Cherry of McCook catches his breath after his personal-best effort in the Class B boys 800-meter run at the state track meet at Omaha May 19. Cherry finished second with a time of 1 minute, 55.413 seconds, just shy of the Bison school record of 1:55.38 set by Josh Cherry -- Austin's older sibling --at the 2006 Class B state meet.

The younger Cherry finished second in the Class B 800 at state for the second straight year. He couldn't hold off Omaha Gross Catholic senior Anton Rice, who passed Austin on the home stretch and won the state title with a fast time of 1 minute, 53.725 seconds. Cherry crossed the finish line a few steps behind to record a career-best mark of 1:55.413.

Josh set the Bison school record at the 2006 Class B state meet when he won the race with his time of 1:55.378. Math wizards will be able to quickly compute that Austin missed breaking his brother's record by .035 -- just over three-hundredths of a second.

Older brother, plus mom and dad, Pat and Melanie Cherry, witnessed Austin's performance at state last weekend. The two Cherry boys have waged the friendly family feud since Austin came close to breaking the record at the 2011 state meet when he also finished second behind Rice with a time of 1:56.194. He lost last year to the Gross Catholic runner by a fraction of a second.

"I go in the stands and said (to Josh), 'Your record lasts another day,'" Austin said following last Saturday's state meet race. "I'm not making an excuse, but maybe if this little wind would have went down, or if it was a little bit more closer race and the guy in front of me was closer to me. But he lives another day. He'll be deserving it (the record) while he can.

"I'm glad I could get a PR (personal record) and come down here and run that. Hopefully next year I can do a little more, maybe state and his (Josh's record). It's good to see two brothers on the top battling it out. Like I said last year, if anyone wants me to break it more, it's him. He's been a great mentor and he's always been there for me. It's great to have his kind of challenge. He'll be good to see if it goes down."

ANYONE WHO KNOWS Papa Cherry would probably guess that dad is likely throwing a little gasoline on the family record battle.

"I think my dad's on my side," Austin said. "Josh had his time, he was on his side then. I'm the little brother, Josh's grown up now and (dad's) helping me. I think he's proud of both of us. We just go out and compete. It's fun.

"Josh has been to a lot of meets this year. I'm glad he could come down here and watch, all my family that came, and all the McCook fans. everyone here.

"McCook, we compete and we go hard -- that's our motto pretty much."

The younger Cherry also earned a seventh-place medal in the 400-meter dash at state last weekend with his time of 51.126 seconds. Austin came close to his personal record in the 400 prelims with a time of 50.474.

Cherry also ran a leg on the Bison 1,600 relay team that just missed a state meet medal while running ninth in 3:29.554. Sidney was eighth in 3:29.510.

Entering the relay race May 19, McCook trailed Scottsbluff by two points at the top of the Class B boys team standings. The Bearcats finished fourth in the four-lap relay to clinch the team championship with 48 points, while the Bison brought home the runner-up trophy with 41 points. The McCook boys also finished second behind Scottsbluff in the Class B-6 District meet at Gothenburg May 10.

THE McCOOK track and field team and supporters know that things would have came out different at state and the district meet if not for an injury to senior Matt Chitwood.

Chitwood was slowed by a hip injury late in the season, and he was limited to just three long jump attempts at state and finished eighth with a mark of 20 feet, 8 1/4 inches after leading the state's Class B ranks with a leap of 23 feet entering districts. He did not attempt a run in the pole vault at state, and he likely would have placed high in that event without the injury.

"We probably had districts, but once Matt got hurt that week, it was a tough loss," Austin said. "But the troops, we rallied around it, kept working hard. This week (state), we weren't sure if Matt was going to compete. He did in the long jump, he got eighth, at least, with that injury. It's good to see him go out trying with that.

"Throughout the day (Saturday at state), looking at points, Scottsbluff. The coaches came over and said, 'Hey it's going to come down to the four-by-four (1,600-meter relay). With Jake (Schlager) not winning it by 3/4-of an inch, Connor (Palic) just got out-jumped a little, (Austen) Sis, two guys beat him on the last throw. You keep thinking what if. We still knew we had the four-by-four and we had a chance and put ourselves in a great position at the end. Hats off to Scottsbluff, they deserve it, they worked hard."

BISON JUNIOR Jake Schlager finished second in the Class B long jump at state with a season-best jump of 22 feet,1 inch -- missing a gold medal by less than an inch. Connor Palic, a senior, also placed fourth in the triple jump at 43-7, less than five inches out of second. Sis, a senior, hit a career-best throw of 152-1 for sixth in the Class B discus, with several competitors passing him on their final attempts at state.

Trevor Pate took Chitwood's spot on the Bison 1,600 relay to run with Cherry, Cody Wudtke and Jacob Riemann. Pate ran well at districts and state, but he is just a step slower than Chitwood in the 400.

The Bison 400 relay team of Cherry, Chitwood, Wudtke and Schlager also would have contended for state meet honors. But Chitwood's injury flared up on his relay leg at districts, and the team could not finish the race and did not qualify for state.

TREVOR PATE GIVING it his all in the relay, stepping in for Chitwood. Cherry battling to surpass the 800 school record. The Bison recording other school records and personal-best efforts all season long. Just another chapter in a strong legacy of a competitive McCook High School athletic program.

"I think that defines McCook track. Not just McCook track in particular, but all McCook sports," Cherry said. "Girls and guys. I think we're all proud to have that McCook or Bison in front of us or on the back of our jerseys. We go as hard as possible -- our coaches preach it. We work hard enough in practice not to go hard. It's just very rewarding watching people compete day-in and day-out, give it all they got, and at the end of the day, I think everyone has to be satisfied with how they do and what the team does."

Bison head coach Tom Sughroue said Cherry and his teammates are prime examples of the competitive athletes that don McCook uniforms all year long.

"Our young men love to compete, and I don't care what sport it is," Sughroue said. "It just shows, in track and field, they step up and they perform their absolute best. That's all we ever ask of them as a coach, and they perform very well, and we're tickled to death."

AUSTIN CHERRY WILL LOOK forward to what could be a banner senior season. Austin will likely enter fall football camp as the Bison starting quarterback after starting at safety on defense last year. He also made big contributions to the McCook basketball team last season, and next spring that school record will probably be at the top of his list.

Cherry said the competition in track and field definitely helps him in other sports.

"We've got football camps next week, and I'm going to be in good condition," he said. "I think just competitiveness. You've got to be disciplined running those races, the 400 and 800. You have to have a certain (plan), you just can't go out, you've got to have some strategy for it.

"In football, being a quarterback, I think I can control some things that go on. I can see stuff. I try making the right moves at the right time."

"Hats off to (Anton Rice) from Gross. I was talking to Coach (John) Gumb the whole day (at state). I was a little worried, me as a little guy (shorter than Rice), am I going to take the lead? Am I going to let someone else take the lead? Do I get behind them and draft them?"

CHERRY SAID he received good advice from Coach Gumb, the veteran McCook assistant coach, before the 800 at state.

"Just go out and run the race, and it will take care of itself," Austin said were Gumb's words. "That's what I did.

"I was in the lead. I came around first lap, the kid from Gross, Anton, every time he kind of got by me, tried to pass me, I kicked it in. He kicked it the last 100, and he had another gear. Hopefully I can work on that and get better and do that for next year.

"Hopefully I can drop my time down. This is going to help me for the future, not only in sports but in life in general."

Let's play the Cherry family feud.

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