The 1980's were a memorable time in American history. Sally Ride became the first woman astronaut in space, Microsoft released "Word", MTV began the VMA's, and Michael Jordan was a rookie in the NBA. For the Bolles School in Jacksonville 1983, 1984, and 1985 was also a golden era. The Bulldogs boys won their first cross country state championship in 1983. That year current Bishop Snyder coach Richard Fannin was a sophomore.
"It's easy for me to remember what we had back then because I was the fourth guy in that group," he said. "We had 1-5 in the top 15. As a junior, we had four in the top ten and I was 10th. My senior year in 1985 we had three in the top four."
The '85 Bolles team was lead by current FBI Director Andrew McCabe who was exactly six seconds in front of Fannin. 32 years passed since that day. The program had some successful seasons in that time frame, but none that resulted in another ring and the top spot on the podium.
Three years ago, the team put the mantra "BBTE", Bring Back The Eighties on the back of t-shirts.
"The BBTE mantra came from Coach Rivera, he was looking up at a sign of our past successes and decided we needed to bring it back to achieve our goals," said Coach Steven Stam, one of two Bolles alumni on the coaching staff."
He added the coaching staff instituted an alumni event to funnel past runners back through and that the BBTE slogan has been on the team shirts as the quote for the past three years.
"A lot of that has gone into this, making these guys into the teams we wished we were on," he said.
The hope to return back to the glory years. In 2016, the boys were runner-up and last month they finished the job, winning the 2A Cross Country Finals.
"The 2017 Bolles team was much better than we were," said Fannin. "We had a good team, but we couldn't hold a handle to these guys. If you had the same talent level back in the 80's when we ran they probably have won eight in a row."
Both generations had similarities. All three of the 80's championship teams scored around 40 points (41-43-45). This year's championship team won with 45 points, 75 less than runner-up Satellite. Much like their predecessors the squad was comprised of upperclassmen with juniors Charles Hicks and Chase Rivera leading the way.
"They seem to be a very cohesive, really tight, and good friends on and off the course," Fannin added. "That's how we were. We ran morning runs before school, 10 miles as a group every Sunday. We did everything together."
The season didn't end after the state meet in Tallahassee. After regular season trips to North Carolina for Great American and New York for the Manhattan Invitational, the Bulldogs were back on the road to the Tarheel State and the WakeMed course for the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast Regional. 2016 Foot Locker Finalist Charles Hicks ran a personal best of 15:05.7 and was third overall.
Chase Rivera, the son of Coach Mike Rivera, paved the way for the team. Seeded 9th coming into the race, the group exceeded expectations beating several nationally ranked squads, and finishing runner-up behind arguably the nation's best team in Loudon Valley out of Virginia.
"This has been a storybook season which has extended beyond our expectations," said Head Coach Mike Rivera. "Our goal was to use the Nike Region Meet to gain experience and have the opportunity to race in ideal conditions that we do not see in Florida during the season.
Rivera added this was a great life lesson for the boys.
"They learned to ignore all the prognosticators who did not include us in any of the pre-race hype and to have faith in each other and their training," he said. "Winning the state championship for the first time since 1985 is truly a special moment for all involved and Nike Cross Nationals is a great way to culminate our season of celebrations."
Fannin had a front row of their state meet performance while coaching the Bishop Snyder girls. As a former alumni, he watched the boys punch their tickets to NXN. He thought they had an outside shot, but says to see them finish second was unbelievable.
"That's a level we never had," he noted. "I'd tell them to savor that first championship because our first was the best and the sweetest. This team has the potential to be great. They have the infrastructure and coaches in place to do. The best is yet to come."