Several south metro cross country teams headed for the hills this summer.
It was a way to get some training on rugged mountain trails and establish team bonding for cross country teams in what is uniquely both an individual and team sport.
Mountain Vista went camping at Rocky Mountain State Park. Highlands Ranch ventured to Copper Mountain for a fitness-friendly experience that included running, biking, swimming and fun.
Castle View conducted a high altitude camp in Leadville at Colorado Mountain College. Chaparral went on a camping expedition to Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
Heritage had 21 runners travel to Breckenridge for training, setting team and individual goals and watching the boys and girls trade cooking duties.
Rock Canyon had a three-day high altitude camp at Winter Park that included vigorous trail runs in addition to building team camaraderie
“We all have different conditioning programs to get ready for the season,” said Mountain Vista coach Jonathan Dalby, whose boys team is the defending Class 5A state champions. “I know some of the teams go on camping trips and stuff for a week for kind of team bonding.
“We stayed at a camp site in the park. It was a bonding thing for us. We ran in the morning up one of the mountains. It's more about bonding.”
There were 40 Vista athletes who made the trip, set up tents, made campfires, grilled hamburgers and bonded when they were not running vertical trails.
“It was a great time for the team,” said junior Paxton Smith. “We ran in the morning and it was probably one of the hardest trails of our lives, my life at least. The park trail was rocky, had an intense climb and it was harder because we were at high altitude.
“It's was so much fun because you are out with your team. It's great for team building. You get to know the underclassmen. You establish that sense of `we're a team.'''
Smith admits he got to know Golden Eagles cross country runners that he probably would not have acknowledged if he had not gone on the camping trip.
“On the ride up a couple freshmen girls were in my car and I really got to learn a lot about them,” he said. “One had just moved from Arizona and another went to an academy. There's no way I probably would have known as much especially about these particular girls if I had never gone on the camping trip. I had two hours in a car with freshmen. During a practice you don't really talk to them.”
Dalby claims his team's summer mountain adventures get his runners ready for the season.
“One of the reasons we take the trip is to get all the kids to bond in a different atmosphere where they get away from home and they are spending 48 hours together,” he said. “By the time they leave the trip, they know each other a little better, especially with the new kids.
“They get to know each other outside of every day when we're going for a run. It's not just about running, it's about being a team. The stuff in the summer helps focus that everybody's contribution on the team matters not just the handful of varsity kids.”
Castle View coach Mark Kuhn was also seeking team bonding as 28 runners attended a five-day high altitude camp in Leadville.
The Sabercats stayed in the dorms at Colorado Mountain College, listened to motivational speakers, were instructed on cross country strategy, ran two-mile trails, climbed a 14er and finished with either a six-mile or 12½-mile run around Turquoise Lake depending on ability.
“Even if we didn't get any running in at all, it was for them connecting and getting together before the season starts,” said Kuhn. “I try to get some young kids up there and we have some classes for beginning strategy for cross country running.
“There are lot of the runners coming out of middle school programs and high school that have no idea how to look at a course, run a course for a faster time without actually analyzing the course other than just going, warming up and running. The older kids had a leadership type class.”
The top runner on Castle View's girls team, Savanna Dalton, said she had fun staying 10,000-feet above sea level.
“I got to know one of my best friend's younger sisters,” said Dalton. “She was really fun to hang out with. I got to know some of the freshmen. It was fun. It was harder to run because of the higher elevation but it was good that it was harder. It will help us.”
Chaparral had previously went to Leadville but decided to venture this summer to Golden Gate State Park.
“It was pretty awesome,” said Chaparral's Dom Compoz, who was eighth in last year's Class 5A State Meet. “We all got to hang out and got to know each other better. We won't run on anything as difficult during the season. It's a lot easier on the trails during the season versus during training.”
Cross country teams at a glance:
Coaches: Chuck Lutz (boys), Jeff Krause (girls)
2013 Highlights: The boys, led by senior Nick Petersen, finished third in the state meet. Senior Emily Wolff was ninth in the girls individual standings at the state meet.
Top Runners: Underclass runners listed in last year’s state meet and expected to return this season are: Nick Maddalone, Jr.; Steven Goldy, Jr.; Mason Brevig, Jr.; Mandee Middleton, Sr.; Elizabeth Albeck, Jr.
Coach: Mark Kuhn
2013 Highlights: The boys were eighth in the regional meet and did not advance as a team to the state meet. However, junior Forrest Barton ran 15th at the state meet. Girls were fourth at the regionals and 15th at the state meet led by sophomore Savanna Dalton’s 20th-place finish. The girls team also won the Hare of Hounds Invitational in North Carolina.
Top Runners: Boys: Forrest Barton, Sr.; Jesse Freeman, Sr.; Dylan Juare, Sr.; Jackson Encinias, Soph. Girls: Savanna Dalton, Jr.; Calysta McKinney, Soph.; Melissa Anderson, Sr.; Kyle Johnson, Sr.
2014 Outlook: The boys lost only one of 30 runners to graduation so the Sabercats will have an experienced team. A couple key out-of-state transfers are also expected to solidify the squad. Dalton leads a girls team that will have three seniors and several young returnees. “Barton will be looking for a top-five finish at the state meet,” said Kuhn. “The addition of three talented freshmen should make the girls one of the top teams in the state.”
Coaches: Bob Ferguson (boys), Kerry Vargo (girls)
2013 Highlights: The Wolverine boys were sixth in the Class 5A state meet.
Top Runners: Boys: Dom Compoz, Devin Reasoner, Landon Lundell, Sr.; Alex Hebner, Austin Dennis, Tad Trimarco, Dalton Mohlman, Jack DeWinter, Keenan Ferguson, Cole Gerome. Girls: Ashley Diefenbach, Ciara DePinto, Molly Corlett, Erika Castro, Ellen Durkin, Lauren Hudson, Katherine Koehler.
2014 Outlook: The boys lost only two runners from last year’s team and the young girls team is loaded with potential. Compoz, Reasoner and Lundell were also on the school’s state championship 4 x 800 relay team last spring. “The guys have been working very hard this summer and have a goal of placing in the top 5 at state,” said Ferguson. “I am very excited about coaching our best team ever at Chaparral.”
Vargo is also energized. “Talented new runners to the team, disciplined summer training and the mountain camp will make Chaparral’s girls team one to be watching for,” she said.
Coaches: Ethan Dusto (boys), Holly Lane (girls)
2013 Highlights: The boys were second in the Centennial League, first in the Class 5A Region 2 meet and fifth at the state meet. The girls were Centennial League champions, won the Region 2 meet and ran third in the state meet.
Top Runners: Boys: Daniel Book, Sr.; Kyle Moran, Soph, Daniel Hamson, Sr. Girls: Jordyn Colter, Sr.; Emily Cutter, Sr.; Lillian Markusch, Jr.; Katie Plomondon, Jr.; Carrie Plank, Jr., Devon Peterson, Soph.
2014 Outlook: The boys team needs some athletes to fill holes left by four seniors who graduated. The girls return six of seven varsity runners and could be a team to be reckoned with. “We hope to see a competitive season as well as some new faces as boys varsity scorers this year,” said Dusto. “We are excited to see what the girls can do this season.”
Coach: Michael Nekuda
2013 Highlights: The boys were 11th in the Region 5 meet and the girls were 12th. Senior Jake Lucero was 14th in the boys Class 5A state meet and junior Solana Quistorff ran 26th in the girls’ state meet.
Top Runners: Boys: AJ Sarabia, Jeffrey Richards. Girls: Solana Quistorff, Sr.; Ryah Caskey, Holly Humphries.
2014 Outlook: Nekuda takes over at Douglas County after coaching the past three seasons at Dickinson State University (N.D.). “We need to be consistent in our training and do the little things and we’ll continue to improve as a team,” said Nekuda. “Leaders like Solana Quistorff are very important for this team and her work ethic is contagious. I am excited for the season.”
Coaches: Brian Runyon (boys), Lori Lee (girls)
2013 Highlights: Both teams qualified for the state meet for the 11th year in a row. The boys were fourth and the girls 19th at Class 5A state meet.
Top Runners: Boys: Jeremy Romero, Jr.; Chris Posh, Sr.; Girls: Annika Reuter, Sr.; Audrey Cordova, Jr.; Morgan Cassell, Sr.
2014 Outlook: The Eagles will have young squads this season but expectations are still high. “We have a good boys group and we are looking for the girls to do well,” said Lee. “We’re looking for both teams to qualify for state again.”
Coaches: Jared Neale (boys), Katie Clifford (girls)
2013 Highlights: Macy Kreutz finished in the top 50 at the state meet and is going to run at Colorado State this year.
Top Runners: Boys: Graham Butcher, Sr.; Conner Rome, Sr. Girls: Jen Burritt, Sr.; Darbie Francis, Sr.; Molly Baird, Sr.; Ashley Visocky, Sr.; Kelsey Mullins, Sr.
2014 Outlook: Coaches have seen improvement during summer workouts. “We went to Copper Mountain and the team is showing progress and a love for the sport and each other,” said Neale. “There is a large group of young athletes we are excited to see mature during the season. If this team continues to work together they are capable of great things.”
Coaches: Megan Peterson (girls), Roger Miller (boys)
2013 Highlights: The girls team, led by Catherine Liggett, fell short of qualifying for state. Liggett was the Titans lone rep at the Class 5A state meet and finished 25th. The boys lost two varsity runners but freshman and sophomores made great strides.
Top Runners: Girls: Catherine Liggett, Jr.; Claire Stecker; Sarah Bergford; Nichole Steiner. Boys: Scott Johnson, Soph.; Zach Wood; Josh Miller; Luke Rast; Brayden Quinn.
2014 Outlook: Liggett has become one of the state’s top female runners. If the girls team is going to make it to state, all of the returning runners need to stay healthy. The boys have a solid group of juniors and seniors to put together an effort like in 2011 when the Titans were 15th at the state meet. “There are some wildcards each season and the ultimate goal is for both of our teams to find a spot at the state meet, which would be a first in our short school history (seven years),” said Miller.
Coach: Art Vigil
2013 Highlights: The Lions girls placed 25th in the state meet.
Top Runners: Magda Van Leeuwen, a junior, was the lone Lion listed as an underclass runner at last year’s state meet.
Coach: Nathan Hartz
2013 Highlights: Junior Calli Benson was a state qualifier after finishing 11th in the regionals. She was 31st in the state meet.
Top Runners: Boys: Nathan Norby, Sr.; Joe Dombro, Sr. Girls: Calli Benson, Sr.; Ji Hyun, Sr.
2014 Outlook: The Lions will compete as a Class 3A team with a young, but talented boys team. More girls are out for the team, too, which helps the depth. “We have been building the depth of the program in recent years,” said Hartz. “The boys team is looking to test themselves. We are looking to improve last year’s girls team with both increased numbers and experience.”
Coach: Jonathan Dalby
2013 Highlights: The Golden Eagles boys, led by Connor Weaver’s fourth-place finish, won the Class 5A state championship. The girls were 14th at the state meet with Delaney Fitzsimmons leading the way.
Top Runners: Boys: Tyler Matzke, Sr.; Paxton Smith, Jr.; Michael O’Sullivan, Jr. Girls: Delaney Fitzsimmons, Sr.; Courtney Goodrum, Sr.; Lauren Soares, Soph.; Madison Easton, Soph.
2014 Outlook: The boys have three back from a Golden Eagle team that won the state championship meet. Fitzsimmons and Easton have a chance of being two of the top runners in the Continental League. “The boys are hungry for it,” said Dalby. “There will be a lot of new kids. We’re going to be pretty heavy on juniors but if they work real hard, they have a good chance to compete for it again.”
Coach: Melissa Nansen
2013 Highlights: Ponderosa’s boys were 17th in the Class 4A state meet but the girls failed to finish among the top 24 teams.
Top Runners: Boys: Phillip Reid, Sr.; Sean Wilcox, Jr.; Nick Rodriquez, Sr.; Luke Veltrie, Sr.; Liam McCoy, Jr. Girls: Carly Bennett, Soph.; Emma Bishop, Jr.
2014 Outlook: Most of the Mustangs boys state team returns but the girls face a rebuilding season since many of last season’s runners graduated. “The boys are primed and have been training hard,” said Nansen. “They have set some high team goals and expectations of themselves for this season. Watch for the Ponderosa girls to be running that pack and use strong team skills to pull forward and be competitive.”
Coach: Dan Davies
2013 Highlights: The Jaguars girls team won the Continental League championship, placed second in the regionals and fifth at the Class 5A meet. The boys were second in the league and third in regionals.
Top Runners: Boys: Jake Blackburn, Sr.; Patrick May, Jr. Girls: Mackenna Balman, Jr.; Chloe Arbuckle, Jr.; Kendall Smith, Sr.; Lindsey Hulett, Sr.; Allison Janedis, Jr.
2014 Outlook: The boys team will be young, led by senior Blackburn. It is possible the boys varsity could consist of as many as five sophomores. Balman will lead the Jaguar girls. “Our league and region is once again very competitive,” said Davies. “In order to be one of the top two or three teams in the league and region, we need to stay healthy and perform our best at the end of the season.”
Coach: Randy Scherer
2013 Highlights: Ben Butler took first in the regionals as the boys team placed second. The boys finished seventh in the Class 2A state tournament. The girls, third in the regionals, were 13th at the state meet.
Top Runners: Boys: Ben Butler, Jr.; Isaac Holm, Sr. Girls: Cassie Unruh, soph.; Mary Satkowski, Sr.; Louise Wittenberg, Jr.
2014 Outlook: The Hawks are moving up to Class 3A this season and will compete in the Metro League. Butler has his sights set on contending for an individual state title. Freshman Payton Groves adds to a strong core of girls who will be seeking a high finish in the state meet. “We have a good balance of returning runners and talented newcomers who have put in some good training over the summer,” said Scherer. “We are excited for the competition at the 3A level and we should have our best season in our school’s short history.”
Coaches: Laura Eloe (boys), Matt Paisley (girls)
2013 Highlights: The girls were 11th in the Class 5A state meet and the Grizzly boys were 23rd.
Top Runners: Boys: Paul Moore, Sr.; Chandler Jenson, Sr.; Evan Stolk, Sr.; Reese Epper, Jr.; Kenyon Gale, Sr. Girls: Kamryn Hart, Jr.; Morgan Aurich, Jr.; Emma Atwell, Sr.; Lina Krueck, Soph.; Molly Vathanavarin, Sr.
2014 Outlook: According to the results of last season’s state meet, ThunderRidge had many underclass runners. If experience helps, the Grizzlies should be competitive. “We will compete,” said Paisley. “Time will tell.”
Coach: Greg Coplen
2013 Highlights: Neither the boys or girls team qualified for the Class 4A state meet.
Top Runners: Boys: Aidan Cusick, Sr.; Ashton Grissom, Sr.; Luke Bruns, Sr.; Will Wixson, Jr.; Vito Marchino, Jr. Girls: Taylor Spieker, Sr.; Lauren Ogg, Sr.; Reagan Hausmann, Jr.; Grace Moore, Jr.; Morgan McDonald, Sr.
2014 Outlook: The boys have three seniors looking to make a run at a berth in the state meet. Last season’s top four runners return on the girls team. Transfer Annie Trizna will also join the team. “I’m expecting a lot out of our boys team,” said Coplen on the Valor website. “The girls team has set a goal of being the first ever girls cross country team at Valor to qualify for the state meet.”
Note: All above information in the team capsules was gleaned from responses to a survey that was sent to all south metro area schools.