Not many people knew just how good the Palmyra boys cross country team could be this season. But Nick Mudd did.

Not many people knew just how good the Palmyra boys cross country team could be this season.

But Nick Mudd did.

The Panthers senior started envisioning a trip to the state finals last spring during track and field season. He even went as far as predicting it would happen.

“Brock Boulware came up to me during track and told me he was thinking about running cross country this season,” Mudd recalled. “I told him he should because we would go to state.”

Last Saturday, Mudd’s vision became a reality as the Panthers claimed the Class 2 District 3 championship at the Pike County Fairgrounds. They compete in the state finals Saturday at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City.

“I am just really happy for us, it was a great weekend,” Mudd said. “Monday was also a great day with all the teachers coming up to us and congratulating us for doing something no other Palmyra cross country team had done.”

The district title was just the second win in the program's short six-year history. The first win came a few weeks earlier at the Centralia Invitational.

It was around that time Mudd started to realize it could be a special season.

“We had only lost to Clark County by a couple points earlier in the season so we knew we could compete,” the senior said. “Then as the season wore on it started becoming more and more realistic and then we won the Centralia Invite for our first win. It was a good feeling.”

Mudd advanced to the state meet as a freshman, but failed to qualify the next two years. He admitted with not having great teams, his focus those years was solely on him once the district meet rolled around.

But this year was different.

“Nick is used to being the top runner and after the first couple meets this season he was our No. 3 or No. 4 runner and I asked him how he felt about that,” Panthers coach Nick Koetters said. “And he said the team is doing good so that is all that matters.”

But the senior still has the drive to push himself, not for his own honors, but for the betterment of the team.

“He has always wanted to have a good team around him,” Koetters pointed out. “And this year with the addition of Brock, (transfer) Spencer Locke and freshman Aaron Stamper, Nick knew the potential of this team and he put in the extra work. And he has been the leader of this team from the start even if he didn’t lead during the race.”

Mudd was the first Panther runner to cross the finish line at the district meet. Although his main focus was on the team advancing, Mudd mentioned it was a nice feeling to be back in his old spot.

“It’s really just a blessing,” he said. “I couldn’t have pictured it any other way. Starting out the season No. 4 and then coming out to district and leading our team to state for the first time in school history is just the topper to my senior season.”

With his eighth-place finish in the district, Mudd ended up breaking the school record. But years from now, his time of 18 minutes, 8 seconds is not what he will remember about the district meet.

“Everyone kept congratulating me on the school record, but I told them Brett or Spencer or someone else could break the record next year,” Mudd explained. “And there could be some younger runners in middle school who could come along and break it. But this team is the first team to walk into state as a team wearing the Palmyra jersey and no one can take that away. We are the first ones to do it. Just knowing I helped lay the next foundation of the tradition of this program is a great feeling.”