LANSING | Jim Piaskowy says his team owes its success to its chemistry.
At a reception Monday afternoon, the Illiana Christian Vikings even looked the same, donning tuxedos and bleached blonde hair.
"They just work well together. They're almost like brothers," Piaskowy said. "They all have the same goal in mind and they've all got each other's back."
"It's without a doubt the best team effort I've ever seen."
That effort resulted in a second place finish in Class 2A at the state meet on Saturday in Peoria. It's Illiana's first state team trophy in any boys sport and the first state trophy in cross country for boys or girls.
Students, teachers and parents gathered in the gym Monday for green and white cupcakes. The boys symbolically presented the trophy to the school, handing it to Principal Peter Boonstra, who raised it over his head.
"It's really great for everybody to kind of see and understand how much effort we really do put into the sport," Nick Fiene said. "We have a relationship where we challenge each other and push each other, but at the same time we're always joking and having a good time."
Tony Wondaal remembers a time when the cross country team was in desperate need of more runners. Piaskowy said the senior played a major role in revitalizing the program by recruiting talent like his younger brother Nick.
"I think I maybe more encouraged them than recruited them," Tony Wondaal said. "It all just came together like a puzzle."
The team carried championship belts and giant green Hulk hands, both inside jokes that the Vikings say were part of what made the team special.
"It's not about recognition. It's not feeling good about yourself. It's just about doing your best," Tony Wondaal said. "It's bittersweet, being my last year."
Piaskowy said he didn't take long to savor the victory, though.
"The first thing I did when I got home (from the state meet) was cross out all the seniors to find out where we're going to finish," Piaskowy said. "We'll be ranked one of the top three in the state next season. I'm looking forward to it."