CHAMPION - For many, the most famous Flash known to popular culture is Flash Gordon - "Flash a-ah. Savior of the Universe. Flash a-ah. He'll save every one of us."
Champion High School's Nicholas Mackey or Allen Sparks may not have the mythical strength of the superhero, but the two cross country runners have been the saviors of vaulting the Golden Flashes program into prominence.
Mackey, a senior, has ran 17 minutes, 26 seconds. Sparks, a sophomore, broke the 17-minute mark to lead Champion to the Ray Sweeney Invitational title earlier this month on their home course
"I heard from a lot of people that they can't remember the last time we won the Ray Sweeney Meet. That was a big accomplishment," Mackey said.
Just showing up for this year's districts isn't enough. Getting a runner or two to regionals won't do it either, he added.
"We haven't had someone in the 16s for a long time," Mackey said. "We're looking to hopefully make regionals this year as a team."
But, the expectations don't stop there.
"My goal is to make it to regionals as a team," Sparks said. "Personally, I'd love to make it as a team to state. However, I know Mackey and I can make it as individuals."
This power surge began in the offeseason with a group of energized runners heading toward a common goal.
"We've definitely been working much harder than last year," Sparks said. "We've been extending our time with working out, much more intense. We've been working during the summer. Early in the morning, we've been working out. We've put a lot of effort into it."
It's not that these runners are using blazing speed around the 3.1-mile course. Their super strength lies within their mental preparedness.
"I try not to think too hard about the race," Sparks said. "I get out there and the first 100, 200 meters, not sprinting, but a really good fast pace - just get up there so you're not blocked off at all and you don't have to deal with a big, huge pack ahead of you. Be really enthusiastic about it. Don't be nervous. Just get out there and run."
So far, Champion has been one of the power teams in the area - exerting their speed, led by Mackey and Sparks, Champion assistant coach John Haug said.
"They show up every day and work hard," he said. "The hours they put in after practice time is the big difference. They're so into it. They want to perform. They're real game players. That's the difference."