ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) ─ A pair of Rockford middle-school cross country programs come together to celebrate a milestone. The merged Eisenhower and Maria Montessori teams have qualified for state for the first time.
On Friday, the schools held a pep rally to celebrate the accomplishment.
The team’s name is the Musteagles, which comes from the combination of the schools’ Eagle and Mustang mascots. Scott Burley has been the head coach of the Musteagles for the past three years. He was excited for the rally.
“It feels a bit surreal, it’s a pretty amazing experience,” Burley said.
He says it’s been fun to watch his athletes grow.
“A lot of these kids that I have going to state, they were 6th graders. And 6th graders take some developing, they’re new to running, it’s a difficult challenge for them,” Burley said. “And then 7th grade is a little better. And then 8th grade is the year you’re hoping that they just explode, and that’s what these kids have done.”
It was always Burley’s goal to lead the Musteagles to state this year.
“We started the season out, and I said, ‘I want to qualify individuals, certainly,’ but my real goal was can we qualify a team,” Burley said.
Instead, both the boy’s and girl’s teams were able to reach new heights. The boys finished first and the girls finished second in the sectional race, qualifying them both for the state meet. For Burley, it’s a relief that both teams will make the trip.
“I’m happy, because it would’ve been very sad for one team to qualify and the other team watch them go, and they didn’t qualify,” Burley said. “So, it is an amazing experience.”
Burley believes his athletes earned their spot in the state meet, and their pep rally, because of the hard-work they put into a difficult sport.
“The kids really deserve this, from the standpoint of how hard they’ve worked, they listened to what we’ve said, and they’ve put into it what they need to to be successful,” Burley said. “It’s a very unique challenge in the sense that running creates discomfort. It takes an enormous amount of work ethic on their part to get them to overcome that discomfort.”
The state meet is Saturday, October 19th, at Maxwell Park in Normal, Illinois. Burley thinks both teams have what it takes for top 20 finishes.
You can follow along with live results by clicking here.
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