As part of our celebration for 50 years in women’s sports at Appalachian State, appstatesports.com will publish a monthly feature throughout 2018-19 on some of the top women’s sports moments in school history.
“It’s the last thing you do that’s most important.”
That is the motto the 1986 Appalachian State women’s cross country team lived by.
The motto rang true at every practice, led the Mountaineers to the 1986 Southern Conference title and laid the groundwork for the program.
The seeds that produced the 1986 championship were actually planted at the first-ever Southern Conference Women’s Cross Country Championships in 1985, when App State was edged out for the title by five points by East Tennessee State. It was on that day that head coach John Weaver realized something was brewing.
“We were second the first year, and there was a strong motivation after getting a taste of their first conference championship meet,” Weaver said. “I think it was the juice that got it all started. These ladies saw they could win, and they began to fully realize the work they could improve on and laid the brick for the foundation of the program.”
As the 1986 season rolled around, Weaver saw “It’s the last thing you do that’s most important” play out first-hand at the first time trial. Not only did App State’s runners arrive back to campus with the previous season on their minds, they came back with a different mentality of leaving their mark through each practice and meet.
“At the very first time trial, we saw something different because each runner wanted to establish themselves on the team,” Weaver said. “That first time trial was real intense, and the focus was there right from the start.”
The Mountaineers continued their season with their sights set on the conference meet. When race day came, the Black and Gold was intent on winning a Southern Conference championship. Little did members of the program know then how the momentum of that day would carry them to dominance in the Southern Conference and into the Sun Belt Conference.
As the runners raced toward the finish line, App State posted its first victory of the day. Winning the individual title with a time of 18:05 was the Mountaineers’ own Michelle Crow. Her teammates followed, and soon the dream became a reality: Appalachian State was the conference champion.
After losing by just five points the previous season, the 1986 meet was no contest. Appalachian tallied 29 points, with the next closest team, reigning champion East Tennessee State, totaling 50.
The foundation was established. The Mountaineers had won their first team conference title in program history. What followed was a dominant run that saw App State win Southern Conference Women’s Cross Country championships in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992. The feat of seven straight titles has not been matched in the Southern Conference.
While the 1986 title set the foundation for the cross country program, it also helped jump start the track and field program. Appalachian State won the triple crown (conference championships in cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field) in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992, a run that amounted to a total of 18 consecutive titles for the App State women’s cross country/track & field program.
To this day, Appalachian State women’s cross country owns 10 Southern Conference titles. That mark is still the most championships by a program in Southern Conference history.
Since the Black and Gold joined the Sun Belt in 2014, the program has captured two more conference titles, including a championship this season on Oct. 27. With the motto in mind, Appalachian State saw five runners earn All-Sun Belt honors as the Mountaineers edged Texas State by one point in the closest Sun Belt Women’s Cross Country Championship since 1995.
“The 1986 team firmly planted us in a direction of being a championship program,” Weaver said. “Due to their leadership, the cross country and track & field program was able to be built into a championship program.”