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  • Mission Moments
Bigger Than You
Lisa Fernandez

The saying “there is no I in the word team” certainly rings true for the Prep boys cross-country team. This fall the Panthers earned the title of WIAA State Champions, winning the 3A team title in a close race over Metro League rival, Bishop Blanchet.

This is the program’s first State Championship since 2000, and the 4th in school history. The win was particularly meaningful for Program Head Andrew Walker ’08 – a former Prep runner himself – whose teams finished 2nd in State two times.

“It’s like coming full circle,” says Andrew. “When I was at Prep, I was fortunate to be coached by John “Doc” Robertson whose awesome program turned me into a great runner.” Andrew later ran for Gonzaga University where he both captained and competed in cross country and track. He set a personal record of 8:20.44 in the 3000 meters, missing the school record by 3/10 of a second.

As Andrew enters his sixth year of coaching cross country at Prep, he says that it’s about more than the wins.

“My best moments as a coach are when an athlete sees the bigger picture and they realize it’s not just about them. There have been times when guys sacrificed individual success for team success. They accepted the role of the fourth, fifth or sixth guy on the team when they could have been one of the top guys on another team.”

Lifelong is a critical word in the program’s philosophy. Why? Coach Walker says, “Running transcends what we are trying to do competitively. Maybe you’ll run for your college. Maybe you’ll run a marathon. Maybe you’ll just run recreationally. It’s really about creating lifelong habits, staying healthy and building relationships. The closest guys in my life are the ones I ran with.”

Andrew’s passion for running is palpable. But it is the culture he has fostered that is winning accolades. “We are most proud of our inclusive and positive team atmosphere,” he says. “We believe that regardless of level of talent, anyone who works hard and is a reliable teammate makes our program better.” Look no further for proof than this year’s metro and state wins.

“We have a healthy rivalry with Blanchet,” emphasizes Andrew. “Our boys run together in the off-season and know each other well. This year a reporter interviewed our guys right after they won the state championship and asked, ‘How much sweeter is it that you beat Blanchet to win the title?’”

“Of course, it felt good,” says Andrew “but God bless Miles Trius ’23, one of our top runners. He said, ‘No man, those guys are our brothers.’ That touched me more than anything we have done competitively. The boys understand there is a bigger picture. It’s more important than what team you are on. It’s bigger than them as an individual. In the end it’s about building relationships.”

Andrew and his team are determined to leave a legacy. He says, “At Prep we talk a lot about what we want to build for the future. When you are building something, you don’t get the immediate payoff, but it eventually comes if you do the work and do the right thing.”

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Lisa Fernandez, Director of Communications & Marketing