CENTRAL POINT — True friends love and support one another through the good and bad times.
Wednesday was one of the good days for Crater seniors Andy Monroe and Logan Meek.
Culminating years of hard work, the close friends — and fellow state champions — each signed Pacific-12 Conference letters of intent during the fall signing period in front of friends and family at Crater High on Wednesday. Monroe signed to continue his cross country running career at Stanford University, while Meek signed to wrestle at Oregon State.
“Today was unreal because we’ve talked about this since middle school,” said Monroe, fresh off repeating as the individual and team state champion at the Class 5A cross country meet. “Just to look over and see one of my best friends become a Division I athlete right along with me — especially in the Pac-12 — it’s so special. I know we’ll cherish this for the rest of our lives.”
The same feeling held true for Meek, who will be vying for his third straight wrestling title this winter after being named most outstanding wrestler at last year’s 5A state meet.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with anybody else than Andy,” said Meek. “We’ve always kind of talked about this growing up and it actually happened and it’s just awesome.”
“Since he won his first state title and I won mine, we’ve always just been neck-and-neck,” added the Beaver-to-be. “He wins a title and I win a title, he gets runner of the year and I get wrestler of the year. It’s always been kind of fun how we’ve pushed it each other and we always joke about it.”
Mixed in with all those jokes, however, has been times of sorrow after the buddies leaned on each other’s shoulder in the wake of the untimely passing of Andy’s father Gordon Monroe, who succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver on April 27, 2014.
“It was hard for Andy and he used running to cope with it,” said Meek. “Now he’s one of the best in the country and I got to kind of be along with him at his side. I can’t say enough about all he’s done to get to where he is today, I’m just really proud of him. We were both really close to his dad so doing this together today was just awesome.”
Gordon Monroe served as coach, mentor and friend for his son and a host of his friends, and none have been shy to be there when any Comet has needed a boost since his passing.
“My dad loved all my friends but Logan was definitely my dad’s favorite,” said Monroe, who now has five individual state titles in cross country and track. “We had a special connection, us three, so the other person that it hit hardest was Logan. Me and him shared a lot of mourning together because we both had this amazing connection. Now this is all in honor of him. I know he’s looking down on both of us smiling.”
There were plenty of smiles to go around Wednesday and for good reason.
For Monroe, it was a smile of relief after learning he had been admitted to Stanford last Tuesday night and committed less than 12 hours later. A recent official visit followed by the Cardinal claiming their first Pac-12 cross country men’s team title in seven years made it an easy choice for the elite distance runner.
“The atmosphere is amazing and the academics are unreal, it’s so hard to beat,” Monroe said of his choice over Oregon. “Everything combined, it seemed like there was no other answer than to sign with Stanford.”
The fact that Monroe would have such an option was of no surprise to his head coach, Justin Loftus.
“Andy’s just been a great model and a great leader for our program,” said Loftus. “He’s just a great student and great athlete. I tried not to push him either way but in choosing Stanford I was really happy for him in making that decision.”
And what helps Monroe stand apart from the pack to reach such a level?
“His will to succeed, his pain threshold and his mind … he just operates at a different level,” added Loftus. “To be running mornings and afternoons and weekends and keeping it high in academics and having a girlfriend and going to church … doing all those things you have to be well-organized and on top of everything in your life, and he’s all those things. It’s pretty impressive.”
Monroe and his teammates aren’t quite done with their fall season, however, as they now turn their attentions to the NXR Northwest Regional Championships Saturday at Eagle Island State Park in Idaho. Despite their consistent team success, the Comets have never qualified for the national meet and the group is determined to change all that this weekend, including Monroe.
“My fitness right now isn’t the best, I could’ve been in a lot better shape,” said Monroe, “and my foot’s bouncing around with small injuries and stuff so the individual factor isn’t the best right now but the team factor is stronger than it’s ever been. We’re really confident going into this weekend.”
Confidence is another trait the duo shares, with Meek confident in his upcoming quest for a rare third state title in the Crater wrestling program and a potential 10th team title for his head coach, Greg Haga.
Being able to join the wrestling program at Oregon State is just another feather in the cap of someone who practically works year-round honing his skills on the mat.
“It’s a testament to his hard work and all the effort that he’s put forth in wrestling,” said Haga, “and the people that have worked with him from the time he was in the third and fourth grade. I think he’s done a great job of putting himself in a position to be recruited by a Division I school.”
And what helps separate Meek when it comes to wrestling?
“There’s athletic ability and there’s drive but he has a great will to win,” said Haga. “And the bottom line is he enjoys wrestling. A lot of people that wrestle, they don’t enjoy it as much as some others, but he really enjoys wrestling.”
What Meek also especially enjoys is being able to keep wearing the orange and black for another four years.
“It’s awesome because my whole life it’s been my goal to go wrestle in college and I grew up an Oregon State fan so it’s kind of two dreams in one,” said the two-time reigning state champion at 145 pounds. “I’m just thankful for everyone who has cheered me on and supported me through this journey.”
And especially thankful that he and Monroe got to enjoy yet another good day together.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry