The seed of Stafford High School’s boys cross country state championship in 2011 was planted the season before.
It was on the bus ride home from a disappointing fourth-place state finish that head coach Pete Augrom informed his runners he was prepared to step down at the beginning of the season.
That’s when Augrom learned his wife, Beth, was suffering from Stage 3 Melanoma. Augrom wanted to relinquish his coaching duties and care for his wife, but she wouldn’t let him.
“My wife said, ‘You’re going to coach because you’re going to need that relief to get out there with those kids,” Augrom recalled. “Hannah [Lowery] had just won the [girls] state meet in the closest finish ever and tied the state record and nobody was really celebrating.
“I went to the back of the bus and just said, ‘Hey, when you guys have a minute thank my wife, because I wasn’t coaching.’”
The Indians thanked Beth Augrom, who has been cancer-free for 10 years, at the team banquet to cap the 2010 season. They continued showing their gratitude the following year when they captured the school’s first cross country team state title.
Stafford held off second-place Albemarle by 15 points that day at Meadows Farms in The Plains and nine years later the Indians have been recognized as The Free Lance-Star’s Team of the Decade.
“It’s really good memories,” Augrom said. “You get to join a club that not a whole lot of people will join. … I will always be proud of us winning that title.”
The Indians didn’t have one star runner that season. But Augrom knew they had the opportunity to pull off a state championship.
He told Chapin Baxter, who was the No. 5 runner in the state meet, prior to the season that if he could trim 30 seconds off his time he could all but guarantee a team title.
Baxter did just that.
Augrom was also eager for the return of Brandon Hinton, whose injury at the start of the season allowed the Indians to float under the radar. Hinton was the Indians’ No. 4 runner that day behind Greg Bohmke, Ian MacLeod and Joey Abbatiello, respectively.
“People were kind of downplaying us,” Augrom said. “When [Hinton] came back I put him in the ‘B’ race instead of the ‘A’ race. As soon I put him in I was like, ‘This is exactly what I wanted to see. We’re good.’”
Ryan Hazelgren and Tanner Wendtladt were the sixth and seventh runners for the Indians at the state meet. Those two, along with Baxter near the end gave Stafford the edge it needed to surge past Albemarle, which had defeated the Indians for the Commonwealth District title by one point. Stafford also won the Northwest Region title that season.
The Indians were presented championship rings at halftime of a basketball game in the winter. Some parents didn’t like that Augrom gave his runners a sneak peek at the rings in his classroom earlier that day, but Augrom couldn’t contain his excitement.
“They were like, ‘You really should wait,’” Augrom said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah well, they earned this. I really don’t care.’ I wanted them to see their ring. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”
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