Author's Note: Some of this story is tongue and cheek. Read and enjoy but remember some of this is supposed to funny and well... it is humorous. Thank you to the Clayton high school writing team of Nick Lee and Harry Rubin for letting me share their story here at mo.milesplit.com
There is only one fantasy sport in the world where competitors can meet and compete with their players in real life. Of that fantasy sport, there is only one confirmed league in existence in the entire world.Ten years ago, Clayton's head cross country coach James Crowe had an idea. "There were all this fantasy football and fantasy baseball, and I didn't really want any of that. I thought cross country lends itself to a tremendous opportunity for fantasy, and I told one of my assistants at the time, David Hackett. We sat down, hammered out some rules, and the first year, we had four people playing, and we had a lot of fun," Crowe said. The rules Crowe and Hackett created were simple: Each competitor drafts ten runners and picks a starting lineup of seven. The results of all meets are merged into one super-meet in which all runners are ranked by that week's 5k times. That super-meet is then scored as if it is a normal cross country meet, where the top time gets one point, second gets two and so on. The lowest team score wins the week and is awarded ten fantasy points, second place team is awarded eight fantasy points, and each successive team receives one fantasy point fewer. Fantasy points are accumulated over the course of the year and the top four after the regular season qualify for the state championships. The winner of the regular season and state championships both receive a Woofie's hot dog. "Hackett and I both really enjoyed a Woofie's hot dog. They're amazing, delicious, and that's kind of a nice prize, and we can't really gamble with actual money, so that's how we decided," Crowe said. John Spencer, a Cross Country Coach at Westminster Christian Academy, appreciates what Crowe has created. "There's no better fantasy sport out there," he said. "Fantasy football takes no effort. Fantasy cross country is a thing for the intellectual. Fantasy football is something for anybody." This past year, Spencer's team failed to make it to state, ending the season.
This past year, Spencer's team failed to make it to state, finishing the season in last place. Spencer blames his team's failure on his lack of time, arguing, "I could've won if I'd done something. I had a few other things going on this year." "Things" refers to Spencer's newborn baby, a commitment the other coaches in the league respect, though they may not understand. "Spencer's performance was disappointing," Crowe said. "Some people place more of a value on their family than they do on fantasy. I don't understand it, but who am I to say?" Through the years, fantasy cross country's practice of high schoolers drafting other high schoolers for their teams has led to some interesting scenarios. Mark Spewak, former Ladue runner and current coach, leaped at the opportunity to draft himself his senior year. "In the summer of 2010, I had a lot of confidence in myself as a runner. I really believed I was going to be a state contender going into my senior cross country season. I believe it was the 3rd or 4th round when I decided I was going to pick myself. Boy did that backfire," Spewak said. For Spewak, keeping his fantasy team competitive was a top priority, even if it meant cutting ties with himself. "My season got off to a very slow start. For whatever reason I still thought I was going to continue to get faster. It became apparent that my sub-par performances each week were slowing my fantasy team down. I decided to drop myself and pick up a free agent from Farmington High School,"Spewak said. Although Spewak ended up helping his Ladue team to the Class 3 state title, the victory was a bittersweet experience. "The funny thing was after I dropped myself, I started dropping massive personal records. A fellow member of the league ended up picking me up and using me to beat me at State. It was one of the toughest losses I have endured to this day," Spewak said.