By Tiffany L. Rehbein
If you stand with your arms outstretched, your body like a cross, and you look to the left, the sky appears to bounce from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your other fingers. Nothing but sky, like an azure dome tent overhead, for protection.
But if you look closer, down the gravel road, you can see a runner. Some days there are two, ticking away miles in the rain, in the snow before his lungs freeze or in the heat as it crawls to 100 degrees.
That sky sometimes fills with clouds, light and white, sweeping across the endless expanse. Sometimes the wind blows in a mushroom cloud, sometimes two or three at a time, waiting to explode.
Intensity and competition ride on that serious wind that tunnels down the furrows that erupt from the fields. They ride with high spirits. Intensity and competition drive down the single paved road in Kremlin. They fill the tan gymnasium in Gildford. They encircle the track and swallow yards on the football field in Rudyard.
As it is with the KG KouGars. As it must be for the boys who captured four state titles in the 1998-99 school year. As it has to be, since they are the only Class C team to ever accomplish such a feat.
It wasnt the wind that pushed the boys cross country team to the state championship. It was seven boys who actively participated at state-level competition. It was the top five boys who racked up enough total team points to bring home the trophy.
Senior twins Trevor and Travis Stehman led the KouGar attack in early fall. They would go on, a mere seven months later, to bring home another state trophy in track and field.
The initial goal of the KouGar cross country team, said coach Paul Anderson, was to win. Win they did, bringing home three state trophies in the three years that theyve been involved in the sport.
The athletes from the two small communities practice in Gildford. They run hills in an area that appears to not have hills. It builds stamina. It builds strength. They were already strengthening two attributes that would come into play throughout the entire school year.
With only 56 kids enrolled at KG, which has been consolidated since 1971, those not involved in cross country play football. The 6-man football team, which itself is combined with two nearby towns, Hingham and Rudyard, otherwise known as Blue Sky, brought home a state trophy only weeks after the cross country team.
The Blue Sky/KG Eagles went into the Class C playoffs undefeated and ranked the top seed. Only 17 teams compete in 6-man football. Not one of those teams ever beat the Eagles in 1998.
Jake Stuart, Rhett Crites and Eric Marshall had their first taste of senior year success.
Rhetts a quiet boy, says his mom, Mary Pat. Occassionally, however, he would say You know were gonna win it. According to mom, Rhett never got big-headed about winning. He just played.
He was pretty excited, said Mary Pat, both when the football and basketball team won. And when he couldnt clear 6-6 at the high jump at the state track and field meet last week he was disappointed. But it was a first for Rhett. He had never jumped at that height before.
The Monday after the boys returned from winning the football title, they began to play basketball. With anticipation thick in the air, the boys got to work. Seven of the 12 suited-out had already been part of a 1998 state championship team.
Not only was the current winning streak an inspiration, but the KouGars were the defending Class C basketball champion. They knew they had to work hard to remain at the top. And, in February, once again, that hard work payed off when the boys brought home their second-straight state basketball title.
And it wasnt over yet. By the time track season rolled around, nine-of-10 state track and field participants had at least one state trophy with their name emblazoned in gold. Over half had two titles.
Track and field proved to be no different for a set of boys who had, by the time they ended their 98-99 school year, won the state title in every athletic event offered at KG High School.
Success breeds success, agree coaches, parents and players in the area. The coaches give the credit to the athletes.
Any one of them will sacrifice individual glory for the team, said head basketball coach Charlie Robinson. They all have their individual moments of glory.
Robinson said the athletes are very serious and know when its time to work hard. Seriousness and concentration also breed success.
The athletes are successful in the classroom as well. Coaches and parents gush with academic statistics on the athletes. The sacrifice is seen in the athletes private lives. A Gildford church youth group sees between 35-40 kids at almost every meeting.
Locals say the glory goes to the parents. The moms and dads who also sacrifice. The parents who have bred the children three, four, five generation Kremlin and Gildford families who sit in the same bleachers where their own parents and grandparents once sat.
They take the day off work to watch those kids, said patrons at the Gildford Bar and Eatery. They put everything else on hold, one man added.
The kids are well-motivated and the parents spend time with them. The dads coach. Kids and parents work side-by-side on the farm. It comes a lot from home, locals said.
The kids compete, but the parents add that little push. That push that makes them go that much farther or that much harder. That push like the wind at your back that makes you step just that much faster.
The athletes give the glory to the team. They also say its the coach. And they say its the community.
The team understands it must band together. The team that competes within itself to be faster or stronger has proven itself to be faster and stronger. After one young man sets the fastest time, the others will compete. They strive to beat it. Each one wants to be the best.
The players who listen to the one who directs, they are the winners. Coaches agree that the coachability of the kids is essential to succeed. The community that cheers and the parents that drive mile after mile to support the youth.
In KG, that is winning. It has proven itself to be.