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For Suburban runners, it's all about the team

The York Suburban boys' cross county team's motto adorns the sleeve of the T-shirt team members wear. It's the Latin phrase "Fac La borum," which translates to "Do the work."

For the Trojans, who won their third Class AA District 3 title in five years Wednesday, that work almost always comes as a group.

In an individual sport, York Suburban coach Ron Herman has built a powerhouse by preaching team-first ideals. The Trojans top five runners almost always stay close on the trail, pushing each other along the way. Those five typically finish within 30 seconds of one another, or something close to it.

"I've been here 22 seasons, I've learned a lot," Herman said. "Early on in my career, I focused on a few runners to the exclusion of others. Then I realized, that's not how you win things. You win with a bunch of guys.

"You start when they're freshman and you teach them that even though this is an individual sport, you have to apply a team concept. You run together, you practice together and you push each other and make each other better."

Herman's had a lot of great teams in those 22 years -- including a pair of state runner-ups. And this year's group could be one of his best. At the Parkview Cross Country course in Hershey on Wednesday, Herman's Trojans set a District 3, Class AA boys' record with 37 team points. (Team points are decided by adding up the places of a squad's top five finishers. The lowest score wins.)

"I'm speechless," Herman said. "They've been great all season, 30 seconds between 1 and 5. They've kept the gap all season. And that's what wins things like these."

Herman's five top runners are all seniors this year -- a corps of runners that has heeded to his teachings.

"We all think of ourselves as a team," said Matt Barton, the third-place overall finisher in Class AA Wednesday with a time of 17:28. "We go to a race and say 'Our team's going to win.'

"There's never one guy who's out in front of us. I don't know if it's our training, but we're always together."

As evidence of just how even Suburban's top five are, Wednesday was the first time all year Barton paced his teammates. Herman said his team has rotated all season who finishes first.

For all its team success, Suburban hasn't had an individual District champion since 1997.

"Some may say 'You don't let individual runners excel.'" Herman said. "I think if you go ask any of my runners, they'll say they'd take that District title over going to states by themselves."

Herman has led a pair of teams to the brink of states. He's hoping this crew is the one that can finally make it to the top.

"This team all along has said they want to set the standard. So you know what that is," he said. "Try to do the same thing they did today, and try to take a state title. Maybe this impossible dream can come true."

States are held at the Parkview course in Hershey on Nov. 7.