Two days after his father died, Roger senior Nick Pluskett won the final race of his high school cross-country career.
Pluskett finished in 9 minutes, 54.53 seconds to win the 1.82-mile Raven Classic in Auburn on Oct. 29. He didn’t qualify for this past weekend’s Westside Classic district meet at American Lake Golf Course in Lakewood.
Rogers cross country head coach Ken Zentz said watching Pluskett win under the circumstances was something he will never forget. Pluskett’s father, Dale, died on Oct. 27.
“I told the kids on the team afterwards that I learned a lot from Nick,” Zentz said. “You can learn a lot from an 18-year-old kid. Nick had the passion and persistence to get through those times and compete. That makes him a better man than me, because I don’t know if I could have done what he did after the death of my father two days before. It was inspiring, for sure.”
Zentz said Nick’s father was diagnosed with liver cancer on July 10.
“We talked about running for a bigger cause, running to relieve stress, and running to relax before the season started,” he said. “He did all of those things. I saw Nick come out this year and just have fun running.”
Pluskett said he wanted to run his final race to honor his father.
“I felt like I was running a little harder for him,” he said. “When I finished the race, my teammates were there, waiting for me. I started crying at the finish, and my teammates gave me a huge group hug. It was the first time a lot of them had seen me since my dad passed away. The support they showed me was just huge. They were there for me.”
Pluskett said he wasn’t sure he would run in the Raven Classic.
“My coaches said it was up to me on whether or not I wanted to run,” he said. “It was a pretty tough decision. I thought it would be nice to get one final run in. My team has always been there for me, especially after my dad got diagnosed with cancer in July. That kind of family mentality was one of the reasons why I decided I would run.”
The last two months had been a time of bonding between father and son. Nick wanted to make sure he maximized the days he had left with his dad.
“I tried to spend as much time with him as I could,” he said. “The last few weeks, I missed a few days of school. I got baptized (Oct. 13) before my dad passed away. That was something he really wanted me to do. He wasn’t able to make it to the baptism, but I was able to show him the video of it before he died. That was special.”