PASCO - Just two years ago, Larry Weber retired as head coach from Northwest Christian of Lacey, and after a while, he missed the opportunity to work with athletes.
When a new cross country program opened across town at Pope John Paul II High School, Weber decided to apply for the job and was later named the new head coach of the very first team in the school's nine year of existence.
In his first year as the head coach, the Eagles qualified for the state meet where they ended up placing eighth as a team with one person three placings off from the podium.
It would only take a year for Weber to turn an entire program around from a nobody school, to taking down the best 1B/2B school the last three years in Liberty Bell. With a final score of 96-102 over Liberty Bell, Pope John Paul went on to win the school's first ever team title for cross country.
In the nine years of the school's existence, this is the first ever sports program state championship any varsity team had won.
"To win this is huge to our community," said Weber. "I think something like this opens up the gateway for other programs since it is the schools first ever state championship. To break that barrier is an amazing accomplishment. There will always be the one team that won the first state title and it was this group."
When you look at the big picture, Weber wouldn't have believed in anyone if they told him he could win a state championship in his second season with a group that lacks running experience.
"It was pretty amazing and they ran tough," said Weber. "To do this in their second year is an incredible accomplishment. I'm just so proud of them and they beat a very, very good Liberty Bell team. We were just blessed to be able to win today."
Clare Kondrat took eighth overall to lead all Eagles running a time of 20:21.6.
This being her second season of high school cross country, Kondrat credits her entire team for the success they have had all season long dating back to winning their first invite of the season on their home course.
"I don't think it would have been possible to win without our entire team," said Kondrat.
"I know last year we all talked about wanting to get on the podium the next season. So, a big freshman class came in and everyone was working hard and in our minds we knew we were going to work for it. It's just so cool we won."
As a sophomore, Kondrat took on a leadership role which very many high school athletes at her age can't do a great job at, so there were plenty of ups and downs all year long.
"It definitely took some time getting into their heads," said Kondrat. "At points it wasn't always easy, but I think they were all so strong in the end. We had fun this year."
Also joining Kondrat on the podium was Moriah Steinbrecher who placed 15th in a time of 20:56.3.
The rest of the Pope John Paul champion ship team included Bella Kondrat (21:09.3,