Battle Mountain Huskies cross-country team primed for another strong season | VailDaily.com

Battle Mountain Huskies cross-country team primed for another strong season

OK, I admit it.

I forgot that the Battle Mountain boys cross-country team actually won a regional title last year.

It really is understandable, given the show the ladies put on last autumn.

Naomi Harding got hurt in a bike accident and missed most of the regular season. And the Huskies still won their sixth consecutive Western Slope/Region 1 title. Naturally, by the time, Naomi Harding returned from her injury, Lizzie Harding (ear infection and the flu) collapsed two miles-or-so into the state meet.

Battle Mountain ended up winning state anyway with only six runners.

No one from the state seven last fall graduated, and the Huskies have a bunch of depth returning as well.

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Milesplit.com has the Huskies as the No. 1-ranked team in 4A going into this season. The site also came up with a hypothetical national meet, and if Battle Mountain's runners ran personal bests, they would finish 16th in the U.S.

So, it's kinda easy to forget the Huskies boys are pretty good, too.

But before Battle Mountain's principal — what is his name? — orders up "2017 Girls X Country" for the state-title banner in the gym, a few things.

Keys to the season

• Health: In fairness, Battle Mountain is due in this category. The Hardings seem to have escaped maleficent events this summer. (Everyone, knock wood.)

Without either of the Hardings getting struck by lightning, this team's going to need to avoid the pounding they've endured during the summer, building its base, as well as the assorted sprains and shin splints that follow a team.

The Huskies traditionally crest at certain points during the season. Coach (and school principal) Rob Parish has consistently ruled that some meets are more equal than others, and that shouldn't be questioned.

A note here: Don't compare times of Huskies runners and the rest of the state early in the season. They. Don't. Mean. Jack.

We're going to guess that Parish tapers this team not for regionals in Summit, yes, Summit, but for state week. Always watch the taper with Battle Mountain cross-country.

• Depth: Insert check mark here. If we go by the "usual" order of things, then the lineup is some mix of Elizabeth Constien, Lizzie Harding, Naomi Harding, Alex Raichart and Kaela Fahrney as scorers with Grace Johnson and Berit Kirchner as Nos. 6 and 7.

There is a tendency to think of the Huskies as Liz, Lizzie and Naomi, but, as the state meet showed, it's not necessarily the case.

Raichart jumped into the No. 3 spot when Lizzie went down last October. And, oh, by the way, Johnson ended up at No. 4.

Raichart is often in the shadow of Liz, Lizzie and Naomi, but she's part of the "Big Three" or "Big Four," if we're being mathematically correct. Let us not forget her role in the 3,200-meter relay during the spring. (She was the second leg of said team, took the lead and gave it to the Hardings for good.)

Johnson started 2016 as a freshman on the JV team, so her stock clearly rose. The competition on this squad for the traditional varsity seven or the regional nine should be intense with Fahrney, Kirchner, Brogan Murray, Bella Rubis, Megan Bamford and Gabby Trueblood. And I'll bet we add another name or two to this list as the season progresses.

• Desire: This is quite the group of runners, be it fall or spring. They could stop now, not compete this season and be some of the best Battle Mountain has produced, and, be it Eagle-Vail or Edwards, this is a storied program.

Does this group want to join the elite (the 2006-07 gents) as two-time state titlists in cross-country? Desire was the element that separated the 2007 boys team from the rest.

And, oh, yes

Did we mention that the boys won a regional title last year?

James Moran, Nick Williams, Max Grimaldi and Nick Apps are the seniors. The next generation of Reillys is here with David. That's a darn good-looking start.

Don't forget about the guys during what may be a season to remember at Battle Mountain.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.