WOODLAND PARK - The future might be now for the Woodland Park High School girls cross country team.
With four of its top six runners underclassmen, and a slew of underclassmen not far behind, the Panthers might be in line to have an eventful run at this month’s state meet.
“We have a strong team,” said senior Megan Dillinger. “We’re all competitive. But it’s a friendly competition.”
The group might remain cordial during practices, but during meets they all want to leave the other in the dust.
“We all push each other,” said junior Savannah Ebhert, who has finished first on the team in every meet this season. “You want to have your (personal record) at each meet.
“We seem to run close together for the first couple of miles. The last mile you start picking up the pace.”
Typically, Dillinger and junior Michaele McDonough take turns finishing second and third. The next three runners also tend to run together - senior Kelsey Seibel, and juniors Myrrhiah Perkins and Anne Fisher.
“We have more of a pack mentality,” said Perkins, whose brother, David, is the top runner on the school’s boys team. “I usually start off toward the back and then catch up. I don’t like to be passed. I like to pass.”
Seibel doesn’t seem to mind where she finishes, as long as it helps the team gain points.
“I’m all over the place,” she said. “I was really good my freshman year, and then I was hurt my sophomore and junior year. I’m running pretty well this year.”
Fisher has consistently improved this season.
“We try to keep up with each other as long as we can,” she said. “I try to make Kelsey stay up with me. Myrrhiah seems to be getting faster.”
Woodland Park won the Fountain-Fort Carson Invitational on Sept. 22 with 42 points - 9 points better than second place Vanguard. Ebhert, Dillinger and McDonough finished 4-5-6 respectively, while Fisher and Perkins were 13th and 14th. Brianna Austin and Mandy Mathews ran 16th and 17th that day. Seibel ran in the Open division (22 minutes, 11 seconds) that would have placed her ahead of Fisher.
The Panthers had similar results at the Buena Vista Invitational on Sept. 18 when they finished third behind Summit and Salida. In order, it was Ebhert, Dillinger, Seibel, McDonough, Fisher and Perkins from 9th place to 19th.
The girls feel like they will have a distinct advantage over much of the competition at the regional and state meets. Regionals are Oct. 18 in Pueblo, followed by state a week later near Norris-Penrose Events Center in southwest Colorado Springs.
“The altitude (that we train at) will help,” Perkins said.
The team typically trains along Kelly’s Road (“Champions Hill”), Meadow Wood Park and behind the school on a woodsy trail that leads up to the water tower.
“It’s like 90 degrees,” McDonough said with a laugh. “You look at it and it looks like 45. Not that big of a deal. But when you run up it you’re going at a straight angle.
Next up for the girls is the Doherty Invitational at Bear Creek Park on Oct. 5.