No high school boys cross country team in Idaho has a better 1-2 punch than Victory Charter, a tiny 1A school in south Nampa.
It goes to figure as to why to a certain degree — they're brothers. Senior Ian Stockett captured his first state championship last fall and brother Luke, a junior, took third. Victory Charter is heavily favored to capture a third consecutive title next month.
Ian won state in a time of 15 minutes, 59.12 seconds. Luke was about 25 seconds back at 16:24.65.
Luke made it a specific goal to close the gap on his brother this fall. And even as Ian has improved as year over year times show, Luke has drawn closer.
In the Caldwell Twilight meet, for example, Ian was 23 seconds faster than a year ago and Luke knocked off 15 seconds from the same meet.
Ian leads the 1A ranks at 15:22.5 and Luke is second at 15:37.3. Teammates Connor-Douglas Robbins and Benton Bernard are third and fourth, respectively. Victory Charter returned all seven runners from a year ago that helped the Vipers dominate at state.
And just to show that Ian and Luke aren't just taking advantage of the 1A ranks, Ian ranks third overall in the state and Luke is seventh.
They will find out how they stack up against the elite at the prestigious Bob Firman Invitational on Saturday at Eagle Island State Park.
"They need to be in that race," Victory Charter coach Jack Ward said. "They're all doing real well. There's always little owies and injuries you get at the halfway point of the season, but they've all worked hard in the summer and it's really showing and paying off. I see improvement top to bottom in our guys."
"It's really good for us to have exposure to these not more experienced but higher level runners," he said. "Because if we ever want to compete at that level we need to start competing at that level."
Said Luke: "I'm excited because it's a really good opportunity. Not just for me but for our team."
Ward tipped his hat to the leaders of his pack.
"Ian and Luke are running 20 seconds faster than they were at the end of last year," Ward said. "They're a lot faster and that's made us stronger."
Even though Victory Charter is better than a year ago, Ward said his team continues to train hard as if its chasing a better team.
"We are taking nothing for granted," Ward said. "The team understands that, which is why they worked so hard this summer."
The brothers not only are leaders on the course, they're leaders in the classroom. Ian carries a weighted (because of college prep classes) 4.15 grade-point average and Luke's is a weighted 4.11.
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They say school coming first has always been a prerequisite in their home.
"We stay on top of homework and we do stuff when we get it and we're responsible," said Ian, who has given Northwest Nazarene an oral commitment. "We've been taught from a young age that if we're not trying our best then why are we trying."
The way the brothers see it, they run against the best competition possible in practice.
"We're so grateful that we can run with each other," Ian said. "Some teams don't have teammates that can run with each other. I definitely wouldn't be where I am if I didn't have Luke to push me."
Luke may get tired of seeing Ian's backside, but it's done nothing but good for him.
"I do, but it helps," Luke said, grinning. "It's really good for me."
So who has gotten more out of having each other to run against in practice? They both had gracious but interesting answers.
Luke: "I think I've probably gotten more because there's always somebody for me to chase. Ian doesn't always have that because he's alone a lot of times. I have a target to race after."
Ian: "I got the better deal because I'm always scared he's going to beat me. I know he's going to be faster than me after I graduate."
Ask their coach and their teammates, and having the Stocketts on the team has been an absolute blessing. And it shows.
Ian and Luke have played basketball all their lives, but they're giving up the sport this winter so they can prepare for track.
They believe it'll make them more prepared for track.
"It'll be better for us in the long run," Luke said, no pun intended.
Victory Charter has two state title banners hanging in its gym. The Vipers want to add a third.
"We had never won a state title in any sport until us," Ian said. "We're the waymakers."
"We have our work cut out for us," Luke added.
That's why they're jumping into the deep end of the pool Saturday at the Firman meet.