Noonans top rivals at state
There has been a great deal of sharing over the years between Megan and Matt Noonan. Siblings 17 months apart don't have much choice.
But sharing center stage Saturday at the Class 4A State Cross Country Meet was the pinnacle of the Noonans' togetherness. Brother and sister both won the individual titles in the same year, the first time that's ever happened in the history of cross country championships.
The closeness the pair possess was evident when, interviewed separately, they both had the same answer when asked if they've been sharing for awhile.
"Oh, yea. We used to share a room," said Noonan take your pick as to which, both Matt and Megan uttered the same phrase.
They've done so much together for so long most notably miles and miles of running that Saturday's double first only seemed fitting. Each of the Noonans already had a state cross country title, only achieved in different years.
Megan, a Baldwin High School senior, finished second her freshman year, won the title her sophomore season and took second a year ago. Matt, a junior, also finished second his freshman year, won as a sophomore last year and then broke the mold by repeating this year.
"I'm glad he broke my curse," said Megan. "I did the second, first, second, first deal. I'm glad we could do it together. It's something that's been in the back of my mind."
It's the same for Matt, only it went from the back of his mind to the front Saturday ... along with some other thoughts, as Matt is want to do.
"That was the one thought I had after I saw her win," said Matt about the sibling double. "I really went out to win it to sweeten her victory in a way. I didn't feel any more pressure.
"If anything, her race lessened the pressure," he said. "I did have some goals in my head, including that not many people have won three titles in a row and I wanted to add my name to that list. But, to do that you have to win two first."
You would be correct, Matt.
The Noonans won their respective races in different fashions. Despite her past successes, Megan wasn't favored to win in fact she'd been beaten three times this season by Burlington's Trish Culbertson, the defending champion, who was favored.
"I think it was just my day," said Megan. "The way I ran the race, I shouldn't have won. I took the lead at the 800 mark and no one came with me. Usually someone will out kick me with my short little legs."
Not on this day. Culbertson didn't even finish second ... or third. It was Megan Noonan in 11:52.24 over the 3,200-meter course, a full 10 seconds ahead of freshman runner-up Brittany Hill from Hugoton.
"I guess if it was my day, it really wasn't hers," Megan said of Culbertson's 27th-place showing. "I know she'll be back in track."
As for Matt, who was favored to defend his title, it was a cruise after his closest competition, Joe Moore of Clay Center, dropped out with back pain after the two had battled step for step during the early going of the race. Moore had beaten Matt during Baldwin High's first meet of the year. It was Moore's third race of the season, but the memory of that loss had haunted Matt.
"I hadn't beaten him this year," said Matt. "It was the very first race and he crushed me 22 seconds. No matter how confident I stayed about facing him again, doubt crept in.
"At the mile and a half mark, we were stride for stride," he recalled. "I took a one step lead and heard a cry I don't know what kind of cry it was, it wasn't really pain, I'm not sure what it was. Then farther along the race someone yelled at me 'Moore dropped out.'"
This time it was Matt who did the crushing. He easily beat second-place finisher Todd Worcester of Smoky Valley by 24 seconds. Matt covered the 5,000 meters in 16:02.83.
But as much as the Noonans enjoyed their personal victories, the finishes turned in by their teammates were just as important. Matt led the Bulldog boys to their third straight 4A title, while Megan and her teammates finished second, the highest finish ever for BHS's girls.
"The team means more to me now than as a sophomore," Megan said of the last time she was individual champ. "I can't think of any better way to go out. Be individual champion and this group of girls finishing second. This year we got second off of heart. These girls try so hard."
It was more of the same for Matt.
"It really means a lot," he said of the "threepeat" by the BHS boys. "They're all my friends and they all put in as much work as I do. The magnitude of winning something together is better than individually. If you can win something with people, it makes it all more worthwhile."
Likewise, all the running success means more for the Noonans since it's shared. It's something their parents, Tom and Marilyn, started teaching early.
"Yea, it does mean more," said Matt. "Being able to relate with your sibling in the sport you love is great. We have a lot of respect for each other."
And for whatever else the Noonans share, a lot of it is humor and sibling love. Which one got the looks and which one the brains?
"I'm tempted to say I got both," said Megan with a laugh. "But I'd say it's evenly distributed, except right now the punk's got braces."
Matt wasn't even that kind, even though they're both straight-A students.
"I got both," he said. "She's about as smart as a box of rocks and she fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down."
Ah, sibling love. It's a shared trait.