My parents taught me “We have all been warmed by fires we didn’t build.”

This lesson has been especially poignant the past few weeks since the Hermiston Cross Country team won its first state title. There has been an outpouring of congratulations.

Many of them, oddly enough, have been directed to me. Though I am one of the current coaches, I have a hard time accepting credit for the accomplishments of these young men, their tireless work ethics, and their competitive drives.

If anyone besides them deserves credit for what they have done, it is their parents who instilled in them the values of work, dedication, and faith.

When these boys were rewarded the state trophy there was not a dry eye among the large contingent of Hermiston fans. Multiple alumni who had likewise sought the coveted crown were there to show their support. Several parents adjusted their work schedules to make the five hour trek to Eugene to watch their kids run for less than 18 minutes.

But when the team was awarded the trophy, something special happened. These parents were able to see a tangible testament of their tireless toils.

Isn’t it fitting that of the top nine boys on our team who represented Hermiston this past season in varsity races, six of them have siblings or cousins who ran for Hermiston? Most of them were on teams that had similar ambitions. Most of them played key roles on those teams. And all of them were just as proud of these young men as they would have been had they won the title themselves.

A lot of people have asked me what I do to prepare these guys for battle. But the truth is, by the time they got to me, most of them were already prepared.

You can’t coach desire. You can’t coach work ethic. You can’t coach the fire that fuels these boys and their families to achieving their dreams. I simply happen to be the coach at the time that the efforts of great parents, athletes and former coaches have come together. The best thing I can do as their coach is get out of their way and let them run.

That being said, running a successful program requires more than hardworking kids and parents.

These boys wouldn’t have had the opportunity to develop their talents and their passions without the support of this community.

Thank you to the many people who have donated their time, talents and resources to enable our team to perform at their best. Each of these boys has benefitted in some way from this generous community’s support whether through volunteer coaches, camp scholarships, running shoe donations or new uniforms. They have each worked at the various fun runs we put on throughout the year with the East Oregonian, the City of Hermiston and the Chamber of Commerce. Each participant in these events has contributed to the success of Hermiston Cross Country.

So thank you for extending your congratulations to me. However, when you see these kids in the community please congratulate them and thank them for what they have done.

If you see them with their parents, please congratulate and thank their parents. Please let them know how proud you are of them and of what high hopes you have for them.

And then, please support them as they continue to work toward their greater goals of graduation and higher education.

It has been nice enjoying the warmth of the fire that these boys, their families and this community emit. What these boys accomplished was a direct result of many efforts to fuel their fires.

Seven of our top nine guys return next year. Please join me as we continue to fan the flame that was kindled long ago.

———

Jake Puzey is the head coach for the Class 5A?state champion Hermiston cross country team. Send comments to sports@eastoregonian.com.

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