Running Fast & Redefining Success


VM Smith

The starter's pistol sets off the Northrop Sectional Boys Cross Country Championship. The boys took fourth place and advanced to regionals in West Noble.

Four words describe the 2019 boys cross country program: fulfilling, brotherhood, united and compassion. These four words define the story of the 2019 boys cross country team and redefine success.

In 2016, the boys cross country team took home the team title at the IHSAA state meet in Terre Haute. Since then, the program has gone on a bit of a downward spiral, getting further and further from that champion spot they once claimed.

For three years, the program has consistently lost multiple members of their varsity team to graduation, including their top runner each year. After losing a senior class that dominated five out of the seven varsity spots last year, the program has had to be almost completely revamped.

Physical ability is often the only way success is defined in sports; if teams don’t win championships or titles, they’re unsuccessful. And the boys haven’t had as much of that dominant talent past teams had, so in the eyes of the rankings, they’ve been unsuccessful. 

But this team redefines success. This brotherhood is fulfilled, united, compassionate. 


Mr. David Brooks has been coaching cross country at Carroll for seven years, and this is his third year as head coach for the boys. While he may have had more talented teams in the past, Brooks said this has been “probably the most unified, supportive team” he’s coached.

“The guys seem to get that there’s more to cross country running than just maximizing how fast one can run a 5K. While that’s certainly one of our main goals, and a big one, we’re also trying to maximize potential as far as character development,” said Mr. Brooks.

The mentality entering the season was partially the same as always: maximizing their physical potential. But in addition to that, Brooks focused on character growth, making them the best people they can be and showing them that every person matters.

“I think most of the boys will tell you that they feel like they belong to something bigger than a group of guys trying to run fast,” said Mr. Brooks. “It’s my desire that these guys have learned something that’ll apply well beyond their high school years into adulthood.”

By focusing on character growth, it’s safe to say that the team has grown physically too, with the majority of the guys setting personal records this season. Once their character improved, their running improved along with it.

“I’m proud of this boys team and what they’ve done that people aren’t seeing. We’ve got a good thing going for us as far as a positive culture that’s focused on including everybody…this is something that has changed a lot for me as a coach, even in the last year,” said Mr. Brooks.


VM Smith
Senior Cole Hockema stays with the pack early in Sectionals. Cole provided senior leadership on this year’s team and created a sense of brotherhood.

After having a more divisive team in years past, this year the boys worked on building a more inclusive and closer team. The upperclassmen used their experience to build a stronger bond among their teammates.

“I feel closer not only to seniors and juniors, but…really close to the freshmen and sophomores as well. It’s been really great. The team is really fun” said Alex Barb, a junior, who has been running in high school for three years.

The team worked on closing the gap between the four classes and learned to be more like a family. Senior Cole Hockema explained that last year, there was little to no interaction between the younger and older grades, making it feel like two separate teams.

“This year however we are incredibly unified and there has been an effort to include everyone regardless of talent, age or background,” said Cole.

Closing the separation gap between the older and younger grades has emphasized key character values for the boys, going along with the mentality that every person matters. With this newfound sense of inclusion, they’ve also learned to have more fun with the sport and people they spend so much of their time with.

“Practice was more fun this year than I can remember it in my previous two seasons, and I felt like my teammates and I were all closer and more a part of a team,” said Alex. “From the preseason hangouts to the team dinners, it was fun to be able to run with 40 other brothers as a team.”

By becoming closer and working hard, the team has made up for losing the talent the 2019 senior class had. The team collectively knows they have to improve to succeed in the postseason and this common goal allowed them to become a family.

“We don’t stress out over workouts or races anymore and because of that, there’s a positive feel whenever I’m with the team…the team is my second family,” said Cole.


Going off the Alex and Cole’s description of the team as a brotherhood, sophomore Jackson Million describes the team as united compared to last year’s team.

“Last year it was harder to get connected to some of the upperclassmen because the seniors had been running together for years and were very grouped together and distant from the rest of the team,” said Jackson.

Jackson earned a varsity spot this season, learning how to improve his times on his own, but also gaining wisdom from others that helped him grow as a runner. By pushing each other and going through the season with this mindset, the team has improved both physically and mentally.

“It has drastically changed from almost an isolated group that was only focused on times to a close team that cares about improving, but more importantly, we care about each individual on the team,” said Jackson.

Jackson said that it’s been difficult taking on a varsity role this season, knowing that most of the varsity from last season has graduated and there were some big shoes to fill. But by creating a new unified, inclusive feel to the team, it’s been easier to stay motivated and keep improving.

“We are united in the way we run as a team, we are united in caring about each other. In everything we do, we do it together. We win together, we lose together” said Jackson.


Senior Hayden Mullett has been running cross country for four years at Carroll and is currently on this year’s postseason team. As one of two returning varsity members, Hayden knew there was a lot of talent to make up for and that this year would be a rebuilding year.

“This year we are taking it one practice at a time, having a mindset of maximizing our potential, trusting our training, relying on each other in races and enjoying the family-like feel we have together,” said Hayden.

The younger runners from last year have improved drastically from the year before, with about ten guys advancing up in the ranks and becoming either varsity or top junior varsity level athletes. Hayden said he believes this is due to encouragement to train hard and accountability from the upperclassmen.

Hayden did say the one negative has been losing last year’s seniors because it lowered the team’s state ranking. But it opened new doors for the team, allowing this year’s seniors to shape the season and flip the mentality.

“This can be a negative, but it allowed us this year to run more as a group and to help each other out more as a team than on an individual effort basis,” said Hayden.

By flipping the mentality and running more as a group, the team transformed. They focused less on winning and rank, and more on giving it their all and doing everything to better themselves and their team. Everyone had a stronger sense of camaraderie and value among their teammates, their new family.

“I have never seen a team that everyone has felt more valued or included in until this season. It has blown away my expectations for this year and I am so grateful for that,” said Hayden.


Fulfilling. Brotherhood. United. Compassion. 

To those not on the boys’ cross country team, they seem like regular words, but they hold so much power. They resemble countless hours of hard work, dedication, practice and workouts. They resemble a group of people, a team, a family.

The program may not be taking home trophies and winning titles every weekend, or winning state-championship level meets, but they’ve walked away with so much more. They’ve found a new form of unity and friendship that will help guide them further into the future.

Through what most people would consider an “unsuccessful” or “rebuilding” year, the boys cross country team learned new life lessons and created memories that will stick with them long after their legs can run a 5K.