Still Soaring: 1982 Cross Country Team Reunites
BY ZACH WADLEY ’14
4 MIN. READ
For those who have competed on a team at some point in their life, there is a special bond within the group, especially when success and everyday life are shared. Some teams fade away, but others stay together over time. The 1982 Anderson men’s cross country team is one of those who have stayed together, and recently celebrated their 40th anniversary.
In 1982, cross country was still a budding sport and head coach Larry Maddox was in his fourth year at the helm of the program. After a solid recruiting class entered in 1980, the Ravens began to taste success, and by ’82 they were ready to reintroduce the program as a serious contender.
“Coach Maddox made us successful,” said Jason Lenz, a member of the ’82 team. “He recruited us all to Anderson, kept us all on track to graduate, and kept us motivated to be the best people and runners we could be.”
Anderson hadn’t won a conference title since 1954, but the ’82 Ravens kicked off a dynasty with the program’s first conference title in 28 years, and the first of 18 titles over the next 26 years. And they didn’t stop there. The team also won the NAIA District 21 and National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) titles.
The group was highlighted by all-conference performers Chris Worthman, Fritz Menchinger, Shawn Martin, and Jason Lenz. Menchinger would go on to become the first All-American in AU cross country history, finishing 12th at the national meet with a time of 25:37.
“There was a uniqueness about their competitive spirit,” said Maddox. “They strived for excellence. We weren’t hoping to win. We were hoping to be the best we could be and winning might come out of that. Someone told me once that they practiced every day like it was the state championship.”
The success was just an appetizer as the program, and several of the same team members, went on to win conference titles the next three years, NAIA District 21 titles the next nine years, and NCCAA titles the next two years.
The ’82 group’s success continued after graduation as the team members entered into various fields of work. Within the group Chris Worthman and Lenz completed doctorates. Worthman has taught at DePaul University in Chicago for more than 25 years, while Lenz has become a successful businessman. Three members have military experience, including Mike Lawrence who is a retired Lieutenant Colonel and lawyer in the Marines and retired after 28 years with more than 15 overseas deployments. Rich Hamlin is a retired teacher with 30 years of service in Indiana. The group combined to write and successfully defend six master’s theses.
“The best thing is team unity and a responsibility to teammates,” said Maddox. “That’s a key issue on teams and for them to get together 40-plus years later tells a great deal about that unity that was built in the ’80s.”
The team entered from varying backgrounds, but built camaraderie over time. Maddox is quick to point out that the group had a winning mentality and believes the group was monumental in the history of the Anderson cross country program.
“We all had dedicated personalities,” said Lenz. “We had a spirit of wanting to be the best we could be. None of us came from affluent backgrounds so we had to work hard and I think that’s helped us all become the men we are today.”
The team members remain close, and it’s Anderson University that will bind them together for life. Like many others, they found more than academics and athletics during their collegiate experience. They found a place that allowed them to grow, explore, and discover who they would become.
More than 40 years later, they’re still soaring.
Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.