In the city of Minneapolis storied sports’ history, one school’s program stands head and shoulders above all others. Southwest was the high school cross country capital of the state of Minnesota. Of the first 31 State Cross Country Championships, Southwest won the title 17 times and finished second 5 times to set a standard never to be equaled. Of Southwest’s record eighteen State Championships there has been one run of five consecutive, one run of four consecutive, and two runs of three in a row.
Under Coach Al Halley, the team won the 1959 State Championship and finished second in 1960. As the 1962 Fall season dawned, it appeared to be a rebuilding year as seven of the previous year’s runners and graduated. Led by Captain George Podolsky, the team showed marked improvement at each meet. With a record performance by individual State Champion Skip Weigel, and a third place finish by Brian Anderson, the harriers ran away with the first place hardware. The Southwest runners combined point total was the fourth best ever recorded during a State meet. This year began a three year run where Southwest would end up 104-1 in all meets including dual and invitational meets, as well as City and State meets.
The 1963 cross country team wasn’t expected to three-peat as they lost some runners due to graduation and experienced injuries during the season to both Captain Brian Anderson and Claire Severson. But with a strong showing by several underclassman including Don Oliver, Rick Rotsch, and Jeff Johnson, the team won their 16th City Championship in 21 years. The State meet was one of the tightest ever as the scoring came down to the final runners. In the end Southwest prevailed over rival St. Louis Park in the closest State meet in 30 years.
With two in a row under their belt and a strong returning nucleus of five letterman, the 1964 Southwest harriers were pointed toward a three peat from day one of the season. The City Championship proved an easy win with a near perfect score as all seven runners finished in the top ten. Similar results at the Swain Invitational built confidence. The State Championship was meant to be. Led by a third place finish by Don Oliver, plus excellent performances by Dean Weigel, Rick Rotsch, Bob Witcraft, and Jeff Johnson, the team totaled the fifth best point total in State tournament history. A true team victory.
As the 1965 cross country season opened, there were many spots to fill vacated by the class of three in-a-row seniors. But this gutsy group was up for the task with many of the newcomers logging 1000 miles during the summer months. With another City Championship in hand, the group galloped to a fourth State Championship. Seniors Bob Witcraft who finished third in State, and Dean Weigel who finished fifth, led the team to victory capping off the four in a row.
For Southwest High School cross country runners, the twelve year period between 1962 and 1973 the school proved almost unbeatable with four in a row State Championships followed a few years later by five in a row. A remarkable feat never to be accomplished again.