Coatesville\'s Men of Black: PA\'s best ever. NTN champions. Fast Friends.

Coatesville's Men of Black:
PA's best ever.
NTN champions.
Fast friends.

All year the strategy was simple – but pulling it off in a race, especially one the caliber of Nike Team Nationals – was never easy. It just looked that way on occasion.

Gun goes off. See Kyle. Stay as close to Kyle as possible for as long as possible.

Kyle is Kyle Dawson, one of the five talented, motivated, focused, fun-loving seniors who make up the scoring five for the Nike Team National Champions - Bridgetown XC Club. Ahh, we mean Coatesville High School.

2006 NTN Champs (in order of finish at NTN left to right) Kyle Dawson, Sean Ward,
Owen Dawson, Tom Pannulla, Jason Leonard, Drew Mahoney, Chris Rosato, Jason & Owen hoist the trophy
(Action photos at PIAA States by Don Rich. NTN photo by Brandon Miles, MileSplit Network)

This is the story of their race in Portland at NTN 3. A race in which the #7 guy was 5th for a time. In which the season-long #4 or 5 guy was second for the team. And the #2... well, you get the picture. After Kyle, it didn't matter who was next and next to last for the team. It simply mattered that they kept Kyle in sight when possible, and finished as soon after Kyle finished. And it worked all year. Only one team compression (#1-5 man) all year went over a minute. All the rest were in the 40's. Including the last one. At NTN, 49-seconds behind the 8th place Kyle Dawson came the 5th Coatesville runner.

But all year, this team did something even more impressive.

They would have won every meet, including their district and state meets, even if their top two guys had not finished.

Let me repeat that. Imagine if Kyle and whoever was 2nd for the team that day didn't finish the race. It didn't matter. They win anyway.

There was one early meet where that wasn't the case. (It was Gettysburg, so you don't have to look it up.) And it wouldn't have been the case at NTN, either.

BUT, let's say their 5th man had not finished the race at NTN.

That's right. They still would have won.

And if their 5th and 6th men had not finished? Well, They still would have finished 2nd.

At NTN, no 6th man on any other team was in before Coatesville's 7th. Only four 5th men on the other teams beat Coatesville's 7th... and Coatesville had 7 in before nine 4th men and six 3rd men. That's depth.


Their point totals at Big Valley, Gettysburg, Carlisle, Steel City, District 1, PIAA States, and NTN were 16-26-30-40-51-26-126. And when you consider their spreads from one-five in those meets... :48, :46, 1:06, :45, :49, :42, :49, you can see the depth of this team. They even had a 49-second spread when Kyle ran a 5k in 14:58, taking 3rd at his district meet.

The Men of Black

(Black is one of their two school colors, and MOB aptly describes the way they dominated the front of many of their races.)

(in alpha order)
Kyle Dawson, senior;
Owen Dawson, senior (they're twins);
Jason Leonard, senior;
Andrew Mahoney, junior;
Tom Pannulla, senior;
Chris Rosato, sophomore;
Sean Ward, senior.

Head Coach - since 1985: Keith Andrew
Assistant Coach - since 1996: David Lapp (all-American at Tennessee. Held two collegiate American relay records)
Team's biggest fan and Coatesville's head T&F coach: Carl Smith
Probably the most rabid booster's club in PA. Ten made the trip to Portland.

One 1st man. Four 2nd men. And two insurance policies.

The great Fayetteville-Manilus NY team of 2004 had Five First Men. That's one way to do it. And they nearly did, finishing second in the inaugural NTN to one of the incredible York IL teams. But when you have a guy who can go sub-15, and then you place your scorers within 50 seconds of that is a great plan too. And as illustrated earlier, Coatesville's 6th and 7th guys, underclassmen Drew Mahoney and Chris Rosato, were not your average 'fill-out-the-varsity' runners. "We told them they could have been the top two runners on a lot of teams," Owen Dawson says.

Coach Lapp says their 6 and 7 were unmatched all season. "I told the guys at the beginning of the year, we need ten. We can only race seven, but we need ten."

Owen said Mahoney and Rosato contributed a lot during the year. "Without them, we would not have been as dominant. They displaced a lot of guys, and they had absolutely huge races at NTN."

While Kyle Dawson was the #1 runner all season, in the seven major invitationals, each of the four varsity seniors ran 2nd for the team at least once.

Leonard 4, 4, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5
Pannulla 5, 2, 3, 2, 3, 2, 4
O.Dawson 3, 3, 4, 4, 2, 3, 3
Ward 2, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 2

The rain of Big Valley on 9/2 made a nice bookend for the slop of Portland in November
(Photo by Karen Ward)

Two devastating losses drove this team to succeed.

This team was born from failure. For those of you who already know the story, forgive me as I tell it (quickly) one more time.

The five seniors who led this squad have been running together since middle school. When they were in 10th grade, Kyle and Owen had transferred to another district the previous summer. The team had two very good seniors to go with the talented sophomores from this group. They arrived at states ready to upset Northeast ranked Cedar Cliff. The race was close. Five points close.

Instead of celebrating their visit to the podium for 2nd place, the sophomores on this team were angry and almost despondent. To make matters worse, if you plugged in Kyle Dawson's top 25 finish running for Downingtown West, Coatesville would have won the race.

Cedar Cliff went to NTN. Coatesville went home.

The returning juniors vowed to get back to the top. To help them along, Kyle and Owen were back in the district the next spring. The team endured one early loss at the start of their junior year, and then plowed through the season, dominating the deep District 1 competition. They returned to Hershey as one of the two favorites (The Miller twins were seniors for a strong Manheim Township team). Coatesville was confident.

Coach Lapp says that their 2005 4th place finish was even more devastating than the five-point loss in 2004. "They forgot they had to compete before going to get their awards."

At Gettysburg on 9/9, the domination to come was evident.
(Photo by Don Rich)

The anger and disappointment simmered over the rest of the year, and eventually transformed to pure focus. The guys talked. And over the summer of 2006, they rededicated themselves to each other and to their goals.

Pannulla echoed his teammate's sentiments. "That feeling of losing was a huge drive for us."

Ward said that 2005 just didn't go away overnight. "We were determined not to let it happen again."

And 6th and 7th men Drew Mahoney and Chris Rosato sensed it too. They realized the five seniors were serious. "They were hungry this year," Rosato understated.

Owen says that when they first met with their coaches during the summer, everyone was more focused. "The coaches could feel that. They knew we wanted to win big, so they trained us hard."

But training hard also meant training smart.

Training hard. Training smart.
Trusting their coaches to do what is best.
And a little luck didn't hurt either.

Head coach Keith Andrew could finally exhale after the win at NTN.

"Every meet all year I saw them getting stronger. I was cautious not to show it, but every week I was holding my breath until they crossed the line. Every week, from Steel City, to the dual (with league rival and PA's 2nd place states team) West Chester Henderson, to Leagues, to Districts and States, the performances impressed me more than the last one."

While every coach can identify with the feeling of waiting for something to happen, this team and this coaching staff took a philosophy of not only individualized training, but one-on-one communication EVERY DAY. They also set high standards, were consistent in discipline, never left anything to chance, and never forgot to have fun.

"Every day they asked us about our legs, sometimes twice a day," relates Chris Rosato. "If we felt hurt, they would make us stop and get us into the pool. They would do what is best for us."

Owen was off the race circuit between Carlisle and Steel City because of soreness in a foot. "They needed me for the last month of the season, so we didn't take any chances." And Ward added, "Our coaches were an immense amount of help. They knew exactly how to handle an injury, when to back us off."

Three weeks later at the 9/30 Carlisle Inv,
they had their only spread over a minute, but won easily.
See all the C's behind Kyle?
(Photo by Don Rich)

The caution also extended to gym class - there would be none the weeks before Districts or States.

Coach Lapp also thinks that discipline and stability were key factors in their success as a team. "These are kids, and they will have fun. But you have to set standards and be consistent." When this group was in 9th grade, they left a varsity guy home who had missed the bus. "We've done it since then as well. It doesn't matter who you are. You owe it to your teammates to be there."

That consistency applied to their approach to the workouts as well. "We didn't change anything all season," says Andrew.

For those wondering if they really did train through States, the answer is 'a little bit." Lapp believes that you can rest twice. "Fortunately we didn't have to rest. We ran through Districts, and dropped to 55 miles before States." The team had a consistent diet of intervals, including mile repeats, plus 800's and 1200's. They also had their 'hard six' which included the infamous hill (mountain) on their school grounds. Most of the season the guys hit the 65-70 range (some more), and then it was back up to that range after States. The week before NTN, they finally tapered, hitting 50, which included the race. The team uses minutes rather than miles, but you get the idea. And all miles were built around long warmups and long warm-downs.

But training only goes so far. As in most of life, it's the little things that add up to be big things. Like say, an NTN championship.

Two examples include their preparation for that race. Not knowing if they'd get the invitation for two weeks after their state meet, they continued to train at a high level. Andrew says they had planned all season to be in Portland in early December. "We coached it that way."

Knowing the course would probably be muddy, and knowing that the hay bales could provide a unique obstacle to victory, the coaches took nothing for granted. They set up bales on the home course and they practiced over them virtually every day. And Mother Nature cooperated as well, mixing in rain during runs to give it that Portland-like feel.

And pre-race preparations were no different. Lapp says a few of the runners asked if they should change anything. "Nope, just keep doing what got us here. Out hard and hold on." And Andrew saw something on the day before the race that gave him a sense of accomplishment and confidence. "During walkthrough, they set their own tangents. They looked for the best footing. They did the little things - all season long - that make great runners and great teams. That is why they are at the top."

Andrew continued... "The biggest change I saw this year was the confidence in themselves. They each had confidence that no one will let them down as a teammate. And if someone had a bad race, they were there and got it out of their head. They constantly rallied around each other."

The front pack got stronger at their home Steel City Inv on 10/7
(Photo by Don Rich)

But hard work and meticulous preparation will only take you so far. You gotta have some luck and some fun along the way.

The luck part is all about the Lapp family's lucky numbers. Dave's wife Audrey looks for '4's.' Dave likes '2's.' And that is in any combination. When he was in junior high, Lapp admired Joe Nameth (#12). Lapp was a quarterback, so 12 became his number. When he moved on to high school, he dropped the '1' and took #2. "No one should be so arrogant as to wear the number 1."

Additionally, this was Keith Andrew's 22nd season. Coach Lapp was on board for his 11th (you do the math). At the PIAA State Championships, the team drew box #24. And while they didn't get #24 at NTN, they were right beside it, close enough to catch the vibes. But the biggest luck of the draw was not luck at all. By the time they got to select their NTN uniforms from the choices, all the red and black ones were gone. They were left with, well, you see it in the photos. Can you say bright? You guessed it, the uniform selection number was 22. The NTN title would almost in the bag.

Henderson never backed down from Coatesville,
including at the Ches-Mont League Championships on 10/19
(Photo by Kevin McCollester)

Focused, yes.
But before the race, just hanging out,
joking and having fun (even on the line).

The coaches and athletes had an inkling of the atmosphere they would face in Portland. Basically, a zoo.

Big time attention at every turn. Schedules to keep. New people to meet. And media to accommodate. Basically, organized chaos.

Andrew was impressed with the entire production, and thinks that the amount of pre-meet activities was beneficial to his team. "It kept their mind off racing."

As for the team's approach, Leonard said they tried to treat the race just as any other. "We were calm. We went in as outsiders and we didn't try to change anything before the race." Rosato says the guys are always joking on the line, and at NTN, they were doing the same. "We never let a race get to us." Pannulla says he wasn't too nervous. "We're used to it. Our preparation was like any other race."

Just like the coaches planned. Lapp says they talked to the team about it before going to NTN. "We let them know we weren't changing anything."

Nike rules gave the coaches and parents limited contact with the team, and Lapp says they understood and were fine with the arrangement. "We did meet them early each day. And I knew on Saturday morning that their attitude was the same as it had been for States. It was just another meet. Well, the adults were wound up, but the boys were just fine."

One of the activities that helped the guys relax was the team presentations on Thursday night. Each team had to develop and perform a skit. Gone was the celebrity 'gong show' style of NTN 1 and 2. And gone was permission to boo. But it could be a tense atmosphere nonetheless, and for the Coatesville guys, it ramped up a little when they heard another team do virtually their show, the runner's names to the tune of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Five Coatesville runners are visible nearing the mile at their District 1 meet on 10/27.
(Photo by Don Rich)

Lapp says the guys faced the music and "would not be denied."

Ward saw it only as a slightly embarrassing moment. But they got through it, getting even closer as a team.

Earlier in the afternoon during the preview of the course, the teams took it all in and did a quick check. Mud, no problem. Everybody has to deal with it and we run in the rain all the time. Hay bales, no problem. Practiced that. "The kids just accepted it. Their mental attitude was a big plus" noted Andrew. "And I could tell by Sean (Ward's) demeanor looking at the course that he would run well."

Next up, race day.

In many ways, NTN was a routine win because of the team's routine.

Having seen this team race many times this season, I can only describe what I saw at Gettysburg, Carlisle, Districts and States as a group of guys literally applying pressure on other teams from the gun and then never letting them up. That's how they raced. Chase Kyle. And as they chased Kyle, the wheels of many other teams simply flew off. Some early, some late, but the pressure this team applied in a race was relentless. They proved that strategy worked for them once again at NTN, pushing their 11 point advantage on the field at 4K, to a 22 point margin at the finish.

On the line, nothing changed according to Owen. "Stretch 15 minutes before. Then at 10 minutes. Then 4x sprints. Then a quick stretch and to the line. Talking with each other all the time, of course."

Pannulla was calm. As he had done all season, he had run the race in his mind many times.

Leonard was calm. No changes before the race, so no reason to think they wouldn't race well.

Kyle was confident that the warmup routine would enable each of them to get out hard.

With the race preparation complete, a taper in the bag, the team relaxed, and the gun about to go off, Lapp knew that they had done everything they could. But he also knew that with "mud as the equalizer," they needed a little luck. Shoes staying on. Limit the falls. Just race like any other race.

A half mile into States on 11/4, Coatesville is in good shape.
(Photo by Don Rich)

We'll let the guys tell their stories,
in reverse order of their finish for the team at NTN.

Chris Rosato

The race: "I was depending on Jason's race and I was nervous. It went out fast, and I fell almost right away. Somebody picked me up... I think it was Drew or Sean. Drew and I were close to Jason, and he faded a bit. I was our 5th man for awhile. I wanted to hear the announcer with the scores, but I couldn't hear anything. The whole time I kind of thought we weren't doing well or had lost our shot at winning. But then Jason passed me at 4K and I finally heard that we were in first place. I knew I had to take off, but I think I had burned out passing Jason early."

The team: "Drew had an awesome race. He and Sean had their best races of the season."

Andrew Mahoney

The race: "I was behind the pileup early in the race. I watched a bunch go down. I went around it and I think Chris actually jumped over someone. Sean was with us at that point. He likes to go out at a nice pace and pick up after the first mile. I peaked at the scoreboard at 1K and saw we were in 5th and got a little nervous. Plus Jason was with us. But I thought of the Hilton girls' start (moving up the whole race) and knew that Jason would go. And I heard Kyle's name over the speakers, so that was good. I knew we were moving up. We (Chris and I) were trying to push Jason up there the whole race. We were catching people. I figured Tom was catching people because we didn't see him after 1K. I heard them talking about us at 3K but didn't hear what they said. Jason was moving. We were moving. Overall I was happy with my race. It was my best all season based on how close I was to the others. I felt strong the whole time."

The team: "Sean was the key with his race."

Their first race as Bridgetown XC Club was at the Last Gasp Classic on 11/18.
(Photo by Don Rich)

Jason Leonard

The race: "It was so muddy I never felt like I could get any momentum. I fell twice over the hay bales and crawled, then went down on the 3rd one. Looking back now though, Big Valley (1st race in September in a rainstorm) was a huge meet for us knowing we had run well in bad weather. The hay bale training we did paid off - after that first set. At 4K, I heard something about 11 points and Royal and didn't know if we were the team with the lead. I knew I had to go with 400. I could not recognize any uniforms, so that motivated me more. I knew I had to pass everyone to get points, and that every person that passed me changed the score. I made moves on good ground and picked up more from there on out."

Leonard received the "Anchor" award as the meet's best 5th man. Everyone on the team agreed it had been given to the right person.

Tom Pannulla

The race: "I had a little trouble breathing. Once I settled in though, I tried to move one by one. I got out well with Owen. I didn't hear anything until 4K when we were in the lead. I had thought we had been in 5th the whole race, and really tried to pick it up. I didn't have much left but I caught one or two. I have no regrets. I gave it everything I had."

Owen Dawson

The race: "While everyone else was lining up, we jogged along the back of the horse track just getting hyped for the race. The mud was the deepest I have ever raced in. I had a little problem because my stride is so long, so I shortened it after the first mile. That helped a lot. And thinking the whole way that every point counted was so exciting – how it was so important to battle against everyone in the race. I did hear that we were in 3rd at 3K and started to pick it up and I got a few guys. The last mile, Sean came up next to me. We were together for a little but he kept going. That was cool. I knew that Kyle had finished, and saw Sean, so I knew we were doing good and we could win this. I finished and turned back to look and Jason and Tom were already in."

Sean Ward

The race: "All I heard was them announcing Bridgetown and I didn't hear anything else. I took that as bad, and upped my pace. At the first turn Chris and Drew got caught behind the pileup. I kept running and trying to make up ground. I never did see when I passed Jason or Tom. Late in the race I heard mumbling over the speakers and thought we were behind so I better keep passing people. I really didn't know I was 2nd for the team until 20 minutes after the race."

Kyle Dawson

The race: "It wasn't that bad. I felt good early so I decided to go. I did not see Murdoch go, but by the time I realized it, he was gone. I heard at 1K that we were leading. That got me excited. Turns out we were actually 5th at 1K. But at 2K, I did hear we were in the lead. I didn't hear that we had dropped to 3rd at 3K, and I only heard our name at 4K. And I did hear that Murdoch was leading and running away with it. I heard that the whole way. Halfway into the race, I settled in. With 300 to go I was in 7th I think and one guy passed me. I saw those Spokane colors, red and black – our colors – and I wanted to beat as many as I could. It was so much fun to know that everyone was a point – you had to beat them to get them. I really didn't feel my best, probably because of the mud."

The team: "I was not surprised by Sean's 2nd place for the team. Everyone knew he had the ability. Everyone on our team has the ability to run in any spot."

One of the pix submitted to NTN for the program.
Notice the ad by Kyle for the Last Gasp Classic.
(Nike picked the other one)

Nike Team Nationals

Individual Results
1 Murdock, James            07 Clifton Park XC         5:17.7    16:26.9    1   
8 Dawson, Kyle              07 Bridgetown XC Club      5:25.9    16:52.5    8   
20 Ward, Sean                07 Bridgetown XC Club      5:31.8    17:10.8   20   
21 Dawson, Owen              07 Bridgetown XC Club      5:32.4    17:12.6   21   
32 Pannulla, Tom             07 Bridgetown XC Club      5:37.2    17:27.6   32   
45 Leonard, Jason            07 Bridgetown XC Club      5:41.7    17:41.4   45   
61 Mahoney, Andrew           08 Bridgetown XC Club      5:45.6    17:53.7   61   
71 Rosato, Chris             09 Bridgetown XC Club      5:47.3    17:59.1   71   

Team Scores ================================================================================= Rank Team Total 1 2 3 4 5 *6 *7 *8 *9 ================================================================================= 1 Bridgetown XC Club 126 8 20 21 32 45 61 71 Total Time: 1:26:24.90 Average: 17:16.98 2 Simi West XC Club 148 3 23 30 35 57 95 116 Total Time: 1:26:37.30 Average: 17:19.46 3 Spokane XC Club 162 5 16 39 44 58 79 122 Total Time: 1:26:53.40 Average: 17:22.68 4 Carmichael XC Club 169 6 22 25 38 78 114 119 Total Time: 1:26:53.30 Average: 17:22.66 5 Mead XC Club 187 9 11 18 41 108 109 127 Total Time: 1:27:10.40 Average: 17:26.08

Jason Leonard and Owen Dawson hoist the NTN champion's trophy
(Photo by Brandon Miles)

"We didn't want to talk to anybody."

After the unintended release of incorrect team scores had sent the girls' awards into a state of confusion, NTN officials put a tight lid on the boys team results until everything could be verified beyond a shadow of a doubt. The ensuing hour+ wait meant that the webcasting team had to do some improv. Coatesville was interviewed a few times. Other teams did a lot of talking. The desk crew even had to resort to talking about their upcoming holiday plans.

Those who saw the webcast will remember that Coatesville was as focused waiting for results as they are during a race. Kyle says they weren't trying to be rude to their hosts or the webcasters, they were simply trying to keep their mood light amid all the tension, and that simply put, "we didn't want to talk to anybody."

They lined up in front of the jumbotron and waited, along with everyone else, for what they thought would be a short time.

After a few minutes they started comparing notes. The guys all knew they had had an 11-point lead with 1K to go. Kyle said he had been passed by one. "That meant we were only up by ten. But Sean had passed two, Owen passed two, Tom passed two, And Jason passed a bunch." So doing the math, we thought there was a chance we could have wob. That is unless another team had made a huge surge over the last 1K. That would not have been a surprise because all through the race it had been happening."

Ward says that Coach Lapp told them to get dressed, but "we just wanted to watch the jumbotron and pray a little bit."

The top three teams were eventually called to the podium. (Why do they always call the winning team last?). They gave out the 3rd place award to Spokane WA. It was down to two, Simi Valley CA and Bridgetown PA.

One of the Coatesville parents heard another coach confidently declare at this point that it was their's.

Moments before the 2nd place team was announced, Owen says Jason turned to the team and said, "no matter what happens, we're going to be happy."

Next called to the stage? Simi Valley.

Pandemonium. "It was the first time we showed emotion after winning. We have never wanted to be disrespectful. This time though, we went ballistic," Pannulla says.

A rare occasion: Coatesville's entire student body,
including the band and cheerleaders, honored the team and their accomplishments at a 12/12 rally.
(Photo by Don Rich)

"We stayed up until 3 the next morning. We didn't want to sleep."

Kyle Dawson eventually did get to sleep. Actually he missed the take-off after settling into his seat on the plane later that same day.

Owen had brought a video camera with him and recorded every take-off and landing, probably as proof that they were actually there and it really happened.

In the post-race celebration, the team got to meet the Nike CEO Mark Parker. Parker has a connection to Coatesville because his college roommate at Penn State University had been former Coatesville runner and Bridgetown's Team Chaperone Tim Backenstose. "That was really cool," Owen says.

Coach Andrew tried to put the season and the race into perspective. "This was definitely an emotional high, but I'd have to rank it 4th in my life. I am married and I have two children, so it's 4th."

And then he paused... "But we're the only top team in the US who is undefeated."

Coatesville may be remembered as PA's best-ever boys' XC team.
But the team really wants PA to get more respect.

When talking about the season, man for man, no one focused on the accomplishments of their team this year. One talked a little swimming, and two are obviously concerned about next year. But they'll leave the 'best ever in PA' discussion for others to contemplate and discuss. But virtually all the Coatesville guys wanted to talk about their competition in PA, and why those other teams deserved to be ranked regionally and in one case, nationally.

Kyle Dawson got right to the heart of the matter. "Our win just helps show how good Henderson really was, along with Strath Haven and North Allegheny. For what they did against us all year, I thought they should be ranked." (Editor's note: Ches-Mont League rival West Chester East was the team that was 2nd to Coatesville at Gettysburg. These four teams mentioned here were 2nd-5th in the state this year.)

Pannulla agreed that the quality of cross country in PA is sometimes underestimated. "The focus on the west and those power regions meant no one expected us to actually do it."

Mahoney even mentioned the Radnor girls team, which despite a high ranking all season failed to get an NTN bid. "They could have won NTN. Look at the results and the Northeast was dominant."

And Coach Andrew proved to all that his strategy of staying in PA was borne of need to take care of business at home, and let others worry about how that translated to the regional and national scene. He knew from a training perspective that the four-week stretch from Steel City to States would require the team to face Ches-Mont League rival Henderson five times. If he focused on earlier in the season, he wouldn't be ready at the end. He had to beat who he considered was the team with the best shot of overtaking them at States. Coatesville swept, but the experience only deepened Andrew's respect for the program. "They never backed down from us. They kept attacking, and that made us better."

Trophy was each win in 2006.
The NTN trophy had not yet arrived prior to the rally.
(Photo by Don Rich)

In the end though,
the team did more than gain respect for PA.
They got it in their home town.

The team arrived home late Sunday after the race, and by the time they returned to school, it was 11pm. No one expected to have anyone there to greet them.

They got a surprise, because 60 family, friends and fans were there, complete with candles, to greet the returning NTN champions. The guys were honored, and humbled.

Owen says that just walking down the street in Coatesville, former track guys and others "keep coming up and shaking my hand."

What's more, the school scheduled a recognition ceremony for December 12th to honor the team and it's accomplishments.

After the excitement and celebrating begins to fade, it's on to the future. Kyle and Owen dive into the pool. Owen broke Matt Lapp's (Coach Lapp's son who also ran for a state Championship Coatesville XC team and competed at Tennessee) 100 breast stroke record last season. Coach Lapp says the smile on Owen's face was the biggest one he had ever seen. Owen says he's going to "kill that record again this year."

The rest of the guys will run indoor, and every one of them will join Coach Smith for outdoor, where they may put together a pretty formidable 4x800 and DMR. Kyle says that the mud wasn't even dry on his shoes at NTN when the York, Illinois guys – in the midst of congratulating Coatesville on their win – issued a challenge to meet each other in June at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in either the 4x800 or DMR... saying "we want a rematch."

As for the two underclassmen, Mahoney and Rosato, they are hoping to keep the quality high for 2007 cross county. Both have set a goal of winning their 4th straight Ches-Mont League championship as a team. Both want to get to states individually, and hope the team might be able to make another trip as well. "We have a lot of stepping up to do, me included," Mahoney says.

Not one athlete or coach could identify a single highlight from the year. All echoed the same theme. "It would have to be the entire season," Owen says.

Leonard agreed, but did focus on the NTN win itself. "It was the greatest day ever." One they'll always remember as they remain forever, Coatesville's Men of Black - national champs 2006.

Click here for the Select Photos Gallery by Rich Rosato and Brandon Miles from NTN

Kyle Dawson's finish at NTN.
(Photo by Brandon Miles, MileSplit Network)

Sean Ward and Owen Dawson's finishes at NTN.
(Photo by Brandon Miles, MileSplit Network)

Tom Pannulla's finish at NTN.
(Photo by Brandon Miles, MileSplit Network)

Jason Leonard's finish at NTN.
(Photo by Brandon Miles, MileSplit Network)

Drew Mahoney's finish at NTN.
(Photo by Brandon Miles, MileSplit Network)

Chris Rosato's finish at NTN.
(Photo by Brandon Miles, MileSplit Network)