Pair of Cougar freshmen first to go to state in school history

Climax Springs freshmen Abigale Wolfe and Paige Orr have begun their high school cross country careers off on the right foot.

The pair of Cougar freshmen were in Class 1 District 5 action at Hermitage on Saturday amongst a field of 25 runners and by finishing in the top 15, the duo became the first runners to qualify for state in school history and represent Climax Springs among the best runners in Missouri.

Not such a bad way to begin a high school career indeed.

“I was really excited. We were all over the moon to know that as freshmen we were able to go to state,” said Wolfe who finished 13th in the race with a time of 25:53 on the 3.1 mile course. “It is really exciting just to know that you still have your whole high school career ahead of you and as a freshman, you already made a big milestone.”

“I was completely shocked. I did not know I was going to state until the last minute,” added Orr who seized the final qualifying spot with a time of 26:32, outpacing a senior from Greenwood by six seconds. “You have so much more to go, so you just have to see where you go from there.”

The program at Climax Springs is just in its second year of existence. Last year, the school was awarded a grant of $2,000 by the Brooks Running Booster Club program to help kickstart the program and get it off and running. According to an article on the company’s website, Climax Springs was one of 25 schools across the United States and Canada to receive this grant. According to the website, the grant includes training and racing shoes, racing uniforms, warm-ups and the $2,000 to help with expenses such as pay-to-play fees, meet entries, transportation costs, etc. Brooks has invested more than $700,000 in cash and product for upwards of 1,500 runners since the program began in 2015.

And now, it is already showing dividends for the young program at Climax Springs where the pride is undoubtedly high. According to Thebeau, the school is looking to start a track and field program in the spring.

“The school is excited because it has been a long time since anybody from here has gone to state for anything,” Climax Springs coach Tim Thebeau remarked. “Having two freshmen do it in their first year of running is a big thing for them so it is going to be exciting.”

Wolfe and Orr may just be freshmen, but Thebeau is not surprised that the two runners found success this early in their careers as they continually improved throughout the season. The coach may know a thing or two about improvement too considering his son Josh, a 2008 graduate of Potosi, was an individual Class 3 state champion in Missouri who also helped the Trojans win team state titles in three of his four years. Josh also went on to run in the Nike Cross Nationals in Eugene, Ore., placing fourth in the United States.

“One of the things that I always teach or try to instill in runners is integrity because once you get out of the eyes of the coach, they don’t know what you are doing,” Thebeau explained. “Some will run and some won’t, but you can tell these two have run hard all year long because their times kept coming down to a good spot. You can just tell because they were in shape and ready to race on Saturday.”

That is probably because the duo have pushed each other on the course all season to shave off time and improve their standing.

“Whenever we see each other on the course, we always try to boost each other up and keep our energy and enthusiasm up,” Wolfe stated.

The two have been practicing all week and the big weekend will kick off with a pep rally at the school on Friday around noon before they make their way up to the course at Oak Hills Golf Course in Jefferson City on Friday afternoon to do a practice run before the Class 1 state race begins on Saturday morning at 10:45 a.m.

“They need to just not get wrapped up in the hype and all the things that are going to go on around them because they need to try to just stay focused,” Thebeau said. “It will be hard to do because there will be a lot of things going on they’ve never seen before.”

Even though there is a first time for everything, the good news is that no matter what happens there will be three more years to go out and get even better.

“We’ll get even better goals next year and try to get higher achievements,” Orr noted.

Thebeau will also look for the duo to be leaders going forward as well.

“They’ll know what it takes to get there again and so they’ll work even harder next year to improve upon themselves,” Thebeau stated. “They’ll also be role models for the younger kids coming up.”

Wolfe and Orr are the only two Cougars on the girls’ team, but there are quite a few boys who represent Climax Springs as well. Freshman Cole Smith narrowly missed out on state by six spots in a field of 51 and the team also includes freshman James McCartney and junior Grant Madsen. Thebeau is hoping an appearance at state may inspire more kids to come out and strengthen the program by growing its ranks.

“I think it will be great for the program,” he said. “All the kids will see the excitement going on and to have two of their own people that they know go to state competition, I think that will instill some excitement and encourage other kids to go out too. Most everybody can run. You just have to get yourself in shape and stay at it.”

For now, the Cougars have a chance to go produce All-State runners or a state champion and the pride of Climax Springs will be with Wolfe and Orr every step of the way when the gun sounds for the race to begin Saturday morning.