Explaining the Choice of a Cover Photo

This photo of Taylor Stack and Ben Butler closing in on the 3A Boys 1600 finish line graces the cover of the 3A Boys state meet coverage article.

Nobody has given me grief over my choice of a cover illustration for the 3A Boys state coverage piece, but I felt I owed you all an explanation just the same. The choice of this cover photo touches on a question very close to the core of the guiding principles by which I try to run Colorado Track XC.

When I thought about how I purposed to do coverage of the state meet this spring, I made up my mind to put team matters first and individual matters very clearly second. Putting a cover photo on the 3A Boys piece that emphasizes individuals over team accomplishment crosses over the boundary of my intentions. And, in my mind at least, that is no trivial boundary to cross over.

Let me step back a bit and give you some history on this subject. 

When I started doing Colorado Track XC eight years ago, I did it not only to fill a coverage void for the sport. One other significant part of my intent was to help correct what I perceived as a misdirected emphasis on matters individual over matters team in what coverage of the sports of track and cross country did exist in the statewide media. 

This also strikes very close to the core of who I am as a coach. As much as I enjoy having an individual state champion (and I do enjoy those in a deep and lasting way), I'd rather win one team championship than 10 individual titles. 

Throughout the history of my years with Colorado Track XC, I've tried to put team before individual in coverage decisions. That has never been--nor should it have been--to the exclusion of coverage of individual accomplishments, but it has been the purposeful intent of the coverage extended. 

The moment that cross country and track and field become solely individual pursuits is the moment I lose all interest in spending a large part of my life covering the sports. Team-mindedness is a nice buffer against self-absorption. Even more importantly, team is the crucible where we venture to subordinate self-interest to shared pursuits and learn through the process that we gain back way more than we gave up. 

All that said and given its proper place, I still came to the conclusion that the right picture to put on the cover of the 3A Boys state article was the picture of Taylor Stack and Ben Butler closing in on the finish line. 

Stack vs. Butler was way more than the single most exciting moment of the 3A Boys state meet, though it was certainly at least that.

There are plenty of reasons I don't try to draw too close to the athletes I cover. There are many dangers involved in that. But, over the last four years, I have come to know both Stack and Butler just by the sheer force of the number of times I've ended up at the same meets they have--and because of some close connections with some of their coaches. 

Here's one thing I've learned about Taylor Stack and Ben Butler: If I were drafting Colorado high school athletes to have on my team, these guys would be right at the top of my list of draft picks. Sure, they have talent in spades, but I also know they're committed to their teams and to their teammates. I know I could bring either one onto my team and we wouldn't have problems, despite all their many talents and accomplishments.

So, even when you have purposed in your mind to put team first in your state meet coverage, there comes a moment when the cover photo and the focus of an article might justifiably shift to one high-octane showdown between a pair of individuals who have earned the right to be there many times over. It was way more than Taylor Stack vs. Ben Butler over the last 100 meters of the 3A Boys 1600. There was an exceptional number of people in the stands and along the fence feeling, just as I was, a measure of personal investment in that race.

I trust the folks around the state, and the young men at Lutheran in particular, will understand that. No slight of Lutheran's monumental state meet was imagined or intended. And, I look forward to covering the Lutheran team in the future.