Ten years ago the Iraq War began. The average price of gasoline was $1.40 per gallon and there was no LeBron James around to prevent the San Antonio Spurs from capturing their second NBA title in five seasons.
In Illinois high school cross country, 2003 marked the beginning of what could be coined the "Nykaza Era" for Beecher's boys' program.
Since 2003, three Nykaza brothers -- Garrett, Griffin and Grant -- have run for the Bobcats, with each one playing a substantial role on the team. The brothers appeared in the state meet a combined 11 times, the most successful outing being Grant's individual crown in Class 1A last year.
Second-year Beecher coach Adam Depew only got to see Grant in action last season, but he quickly realized that he had something special in his star runner.
"He was Grant, so he was naturally a leader," Depew said. "He passed along a solid work ethic (to his teammates), as well as the understanding that when you're running, you focus on that activity on its own."
Junior Pat Barton echoed his coach's thoughts about the extent to which Grant's leadership impacted the Bobcats' overall mindset.
"It felt like an honor to just talk to Grant," Barton said. "We know how he felt to make it to state, and we all want to become better runners because of him."
While Grant was unquestionably a positive influence on his teammates, the Nykaza Era at Beecher finally ended when he graduated in May. Nykaza has since enrolled at Florida State.
His departure created a huge void in Beecher's roster, one Depew and his athletes hope they can fill quickly so the Bobcats can remain an influential small-school program this fall.
According to sophomore Nathan Swanson, the first step is psychological. In short, it is vital for Beecher runners to immediately come to grips with Nykaza's absence and be able to effectively handle it.
"We've all discussed how we won't have that one (meet) point with Grant," Swanson said. "So we want to work off each other in races and practices to get better times."
Barton agreed the Bobcats will need to push much harder in order to succeed this season.
"It's a little intimidating because Grant created a big spotlight for (Beecher)," he said. "But you have to train and be dedicated and not take a day off if you feel lazy."
Another way the Bobcats plan to move on post-Nykaza is through a boosting of their recruiting efforts. In addition to his job as coach, Depew has begun serving as an English teacher at the high school, which he believes will help immensely in building up Beecher's program.
"It's hard to recruit when I'm living 40 minutes away," he said. "The students will know me better and I can build up that relationship with them."
Overall, Depew said the transition to a new era of Beecher boys' cross country has been a smooth one thus far. He added, though, that once the 2013 campaign officially starts, it will be up to runners like Barton and Swanson to lead the team in the right direction.
"The underclassmen have to understand the weight is on their shoulders and that they're now Beecher cross country," Depew said. "They should be assuming responsibility for the team instead of waiting for their moment."