Over the years Salem Community High School has developed a long, rich tradition in boys cross country. Much of that tradition began with the 1982 team.

Coach Jim Corrona’s boys produced many firsts for the program that season.

One of the season’s biggest highlights was the club’s first North Egypt Conference championship. In fact that title began a string of consecutive NEC championships that now reads 20 years.

The Wildcats had the top three runners and five of the top nine to win the race.

Senior Van Gardner led the way at the NEC Meet, which was held at Fairfield, with a first place finish. Gardner also set a course record in the process with a time of 13:31. He was just the second Salem runner to win the NEC individual championship.

Dennis Squibb finished second and Dennis Tidwell was third. Chuck Daniels finished fifth and Chris Daniels was ninth to complete the scoring.

Salem also won the regional, which was held at Centralia, for the first time. The Wildcats tallied 66 points, 20 better than runner-up Mt. Vernon’s 86.

Gardner just missed winning the individual regional championship, as he settled for second place in a time of 15:57. Squibb was next in line in fifth place. Tidwell was 13th, Paul Gierten 17th and Larry Bolton 29th to complete the scoring.

Salem punched its first ever ticket to the state meet with a third place finish out of 16 schools at the Springfield Sectional. The only teams to beat Salem were state ranked Springfield Sacred-Heart Griffin and East St. Louis.

Gardner had a tremendous race against the stiff competition and finished fourth overall to lead the Wildcats.

The other counters, were Squibb in 17th place, Tidwell in 27th place, Gierten in 34th and Chris Daniels in 46th place.

In its first ever appearance at state, Salem finished in 25th place.

As he did all season, Gardner led the way with a 102nd place. Squibb ran number two and finished 137th. The others counters were Tidwell in 174th place, Dave Doherty in 197th place and Gierren in 199th place. Tim Sullens and Bolton also competed for the Wildcats at the state race.

Some other team highlights were winning the Mt. Vernon, Harrisburg and Highland Invitationals. The team took second at the Olney, Flora, Benton and Herrin Invitationals.

Salem won 11 of 12 regular season dual meets. The lone setback was a one point, 27-28, loss to Mt. Vernon. Salem later avenged that loss against the Rams.

The Wildcats won three of those regular season dual meets with a perfect score of 15.

Salem compiled a 160-41 season record, 24 of those losses of which came at the state meet.