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Battle Mountain Cross Country is off to the state meet at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs this Saturday, Oct. 25.
Each year only 24 teams make the meet by qualifying at the region meets. Seventy-five teams have already had their last race of the season.
In the last 11 years the Husky boys and girls teams have qualified for the meet and impressive 10 times each. What’s more is that the Huskies have not just been happy to qualify and take a fun trip to Colorado Springs. Battle Mountain has consistently been competitive.
Since 2004 the Huskies have had 11 top 10 finishes (7 girls and 3 boys), 7 top 6 finishes and a run of 3 State titles from 2005-2007 (’05 Girls and ’06 and ’07 Boys).
With a competitive tradition like that what does Head Coach Rob Parish expect from his athletes this year?
“The coaching staff is so proud of the kids and the work they’ve put in and both the guys and girls have high expectations for this weekend. Both teams have been ranked in the top 10 in the state for most of the season.”
On the girls side, Battle Mountain faces one of the deepest team fields in recent memory. While the Huskies put on a dominant performance at the region meet on Oct. 17, the depth of Western Slope schools doesn’t quite stack up evenly with the other regions. Thompson Valley, Niwot, Mountain View, Air Academy and The Classical Academy are all perennial contenders and look to be as strong as ever in 2014.
“Our girls have done a great job forming their team identity this year, especially after losing so many seniors from the varsity squad to graduation. Every girl has stepped up and taken ownership of the way the team performs,” Parish said. “They talked about it at the beginning of the season and again this week, they decided themselves that they wanted to be in the top 5 at the state meet.”
So with those five excellent teams, not to mention Cheyenne Mountain, Evergreen, and Wheat Ridge (all teams the BMHS girls have had tight races with this year), how will the Husky girls be able to compete?
“The girls had a 34-second split between their first and fifth finishers at the region meet.” said assistant coach Jonny Stevens.
“That is a very strong pack and usually having a group like that is enough to be in the top 3 or 4 at the state meet. This year our group doesn’t quite have the low stick up front so we are looking for our 3,4,5 runners to really run strong.”
The Battle Mountain girls indeed have a strong pack, so much so that Coach Parish has a hard time saying who will finish where on the team: “A lot of teams have kind of an established pecking order where everyone knows who the top runner is and where the 1 through five runners stack up against other teams corresponding scorers.
“Our girls have done a great job this year not getting caught up in that order. The group has been great and it’s actually a blessing because if one girl has an off day, we can count on the rest of the team to fill in and keep that team score low.
“What we will need at the state meet, going up against such a competitive field, is for every girl to have a good day. Our 1-7 split at regionals was 40 seconds so our six and seven runners can still displace other teams scoring five.
“What it will come down to is how mentally tough our girls can be. Hannah Gaylord, Anabel Johnson, and Rychelle Denardo have all raced at the state meet before and they know how many places you can gain or lose by staying tough when there are so many good runners in one race.
“The team has talked about it a lot and if they can keep that tight pack and stay mentally tough and engaged they have a shot at the top five in the state.
“They have been in the top four the last three years so to get top five this year after getting hit hard by graduation would be a huge accomplishment.”
The Huskies State team includes RoHAnabel, as well as Kaela Fahrney, Megan Rossman, Izze Calabrese and Alex Raichart. The girls race will start at 12:30 p.m. in Colorado Springs.
The Boys ran a valiant race at the region meet, coming up just short of Durango while finishing 2nd and qualifying for the state meet. Durango is one of the top teams in the state and like the Husky girls have boasted a very strong 1-5 split all year.
“The guys ran so tough at regionals and they have looked great in the last few workouts leading up to this state meet” said assistant coach Max Van Dyke. “It was great to see such a good run last Friday especially for the seniors guys.”
Those senior guys are Cameron Moore, Josh Braun and Ricky Arreola. A strong 2nd place finish is a testament to the guys who were there three years ago in 2011 when Battle Mountain did not qualify for the state meet.
After the region meet Captain Braun said “Us seniors were 6th as freshmen, then 3rd and 3rd again. So I’m stoked on the progression on our senior squad and the team overall.”
Added Parish, “The senior guys and guys like Ethan Cotton who graduated last year really helped right the ship after 2011. It’s very hard to re-establish a culture of competitiveness after a down year and they have definitely done that.”
“These guys have been getting after it since June and it has paid off. They were 16th at the state meet last year, lost one of their top five guys and then went and trained their butts off for nine months. Now they have been ranked in the top 10 since the 2nd week of the season.”
The last time the boys finished in the Top 10 was 2008 when they earned a 6th place finish. This year the boys are shooting even higher than that.
“Right now Palmer Ridge is the number one team in the state and they are the definite favorites. They would have to have a pretty big meltdown for anyone to catch them.” Said coach Stevens “The next few teams are very close. Cheyenne Mountain, Niwot and Durango have been in the top 10 all year and should be the teams battling for 2nd place.
“Our guys put a little bit of a scare in Durango though at the region meet. I think that the strategy Durango has used all year, a conservative start and then hard finish while moving up as a pack, is going to be more difficult to execute at the state meet. If they start as far back as they did in Delta, the caliber of runners at state, and the tighter course will make it really tough for seven guys to move up together.
“The Battle Mountain team is in a great spot and if they execute their race plan as well as they did at regionals the stronger and larger field will actually work to their advantage.”
Moore finished 7th at the Pre-State meet at the beginning of the year. Alexis Aguirre edged Cameron out at the region meet.
“If those two can be low sticks and our 3-7 runners can run as strong as they have, then our guys have a real shot at the top 3 in the state.”
Coming off a strong regional finish Ethan Pence, Braun, Ty Willoughby, Arreola, and Jake Borel will look to close the gap between the top two runners.
“Ty had a strong run to be our 5th at the Region meet,” said Parish “Ricky had a little bit of an off day, but has looked great this week so we are expecting a big day from him Saturday. If he and Ty are up with Josh and Pence, who have also looked strong, we are in business. Top 3 is a definite possibility.”
Top 3 is quite the jump from 16th place the year before. The last time a boy’s Husky team jumped up more than 10 spots was 2005 to 2006 when they went from 10th place to 1st.
“The compete level of the guys and the toughness they have shown during long runs and interval workouts is so impressive,” said Van Dyke “All the coaches are really excited for the guys, because for the last couple of years the girls have been a little more competitive on the state level and gotten a lot of the spotlight.
“These guys have a chance to do something special Saturday. It is going to be a great day.”
The Battle Mountain boys will race at 10:30 a.m.