Mark Stice and Adam Millburg did everything together leading up to last year’s cross country state championships.
The Sycamore teammates finished the last week’s worth of workouts together, traveled to Detweiller Park in Peoria and went through the warm-up routine on the final Saturday of the season.
Then the “Coaches only” announcement came and Stice was the only one of the two who headed to the starting line. Millburg had come along in support of Stice, who qualified individually at the previous week’s sectional.
“I was pretty nervous, but I had gone [to state] in track sophomore year,” said Stice, then a junior. “I felt that prepared me a little bit. I was always hoping I would go with my team or another individual.”
Stice finished 54th in the Class 2A meet last season and made it a point to get back to the state meet as a senior.
His goal was accomplished last week when Stice finished 15th in the Class 2A Belvidere Sectional to grab the final individual spot. Only three seconds ahead of him was Millburg, who placed 14th and also qualified for state.
Since the start of the season, Stice and Millburg have been close together throughout races.
“It definitely helped pull me along. He’s been right there every race this year, with me the whole race,” Stice said. “When there’s someone on your team, it makes a huge difference. It makes it more fun almost because it’s a teammate. We’re competing, but it’s still fun.”
Millburg, now a junior, made a similar jump as Stice did last year, qualifying for his first state cross country meet. He credits seeing Stice’s run at state last year as motivation coming into the 2013 season.
“That’s what I wanted to do this season,” Millburg said. “I put in a lot of miles and did what Mark did last year. I was hoping to get down there like he did, too.”
Once again, Millburg and Stice will do almost everything together in the lead up to this morning’s race. The pasta party, the two-hour road trip and the warm-ups all will be the same.
But this time both will be together on the starting line just like they’ve been all season.
“It’s going to be a lot of adrenaline,” Millburg said. “A lot of excitement to run.”
“It’s nice just to know that he has the same mentality where he has to run well,” Stice said, “same as I do.”