GYPSUM — They aren’t an expansion team any more. They’re not the new team at Eagle Valley. And they really aren’t the “What are those strange people doing running all over the place?” team.
This is Eagle Valley cross country, and the Devils are pretty darn good at this point.
“The guys have made a name for themselves, going to state for two years as a team,” Devils coach Melinda Brandt said. “I don’t see them not qualifying for the near future. They are finding an identity being on the team as runners together. They’re making a name for themselves at the school and at state.”
This is not the average Brandt-speak before a season, and for good reason. The Eagle Valley boys team has six returners from last year’s state team in Nathan Maddox, Rafael Gurule, Brandon Sheard, Michael Niemeyer, Dominic Patterson and Will Thrasher. For the those counting at home, trackster Gino Giovagnoli has moved over to cross country and that makes seven.
Brandt also sees a very strong sophomore class with the gents, and so the Devils could well have competition for varsity spots on an already talented team.
Durango is the favorite in the 4A Slope region until someone runs the Demons down. The runners from Four Corners are ranked No. 5 in the state, according to the milesplit.com poll. What’s kind of interesting to see is that under the category of “also receiving votes” in the pole are Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain neck-and-neck. The Devils and Huskies are the de facto Nos. 11 and 12 teams in the state.
For the ladies, Chantal Willoghby, Nikki Cunning, Tyler Beckum and Emily Boyd are the veterans. Youngsters like Michaela Mitchell, Desy Mendoza and Maria Martinez have caught the coach’s eye.
“Nikki’s ready to serve our team. Along with Emily Boyd, they were both elected captains for the girls’ side,” Brandt said. “They’re both ready to show the team what cross country’s all about.”
Eagle Valley will send its boys team to the annual pre-state meet at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs on Thursday. Both squads head to Delta a week from today for a preview of the regional course in Delta.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.