Eagle-Vail: Huskies’ 3,200 ready for state | VailDaily.com
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Eagle-Vail: Huskies’ 3,200 ready for state

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EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” In 2005, Grant Stevenson, Shea Phelan, Zach Erickson and Travis Landauer ran the 3,200-meter relay in 8 minutes, 7 seconds and Battle Mountain track and field coach Rob Parish thought the new school record would never be touched.

It lasted a year until the 2006 state meet when Connor Drumm, Phelan, Jonny Stevens and Derek Byron ran a 7:58, At that point, Parish felt that the new record should be put in cement on the school’s record board in the gym.

Not so fast, Rob. Or, in fact, very fast, Rob.

This year’s Battle Mountain 4-by-8 team of Tony Crisofulli, Connor Tedstrom, Stevens and John O’Neill is a solid bet to wipe out those previously “unattainable” numbers.

The reason why is that this quartet is easily the most accomplished and talented crew the school has sent to the state meet in the 3,200.

And that’s saying something. While all of the Huskies’ boys relays qualified for this weekend’s state meet ” a stunning achievement ” the 3,200 is the marquee squad in Battle Mountain track.

The 2005 team took seventh at state. Drumm, Phelan, Stevens and Byron finished fourth at the meet in 2006. Ironically, Stevens, Crisofulli. Byron and Landauer ran a second slower last year than the 2006 foursome and finished second in 4A.

The quartet hopes the trend continues downward ” to a state title ” Friday.

“I think that’s what they’re gunning for,” Parish said. “This group knows how to win. This group knows how to be prepared mentally. I don’t think they’re going to be rattled. They’ve raced in plenty of big races by now. That would be the goal.”

By the numbers

The math is there. The top time in the state this year in 4A belongs to Windsor at 8:00.09. Sierra has an 8:02.02, followed by Battle Mountain at 8:08.58. While one never knows until the state meet Friday if Windsor and Sierra ran those times with the teams they’re sending to Denver, Battle Mountain’s best time is deceiving.

The Huskies have run 8:08 twice this season, but not with the four they are running Friday. What’s more is that the results of the tried-and-true regimen which Parish uses to have his athletes peak usually don’t manifest themselves until this week of the season.

Throw in a lower altitude at Jefferson County Stadium ” 2,500 feet makes a big difference for these guys ” some nice weather ” it was starting to sleet in Eagle-Vail during Battle Mountain’s last practice Wednesday ” and the peaking process, and a fair estimate would be a drop of about 8-10 seconds on the conservative side from Battle Mountain’s 8:08.

Toss in that the Huskies are running their top athletes Friday ” Battle Mountain won its fourth consecutive regional title in the 3,2000 relay with only two of its regulars last weekend ” and that time continues to creep lower.

“Probably about 7:50,” Crisofulli said. “If we can go a little lower, that would be great.”

A time in the neighborhood of 7:50 brings the Huskies into some elite company. D’Evelyn holds the 4A state-meet record for the 4-by-8 with a 7:48.60 in 2006, while the best 3,200 relay time at the championship is 7:45.10 held by 5A Smoky Hill in 2001.

That Tony guy

When it comes to Battle Mountain running in 2007-08, a school year when the boys cross country team won its second consecutive 4A state title in the fall and the track team in the spring won its first regional title since 1997, the ink has gone to two guys.

Stevens and O’Neill or Jonny and John or John and Jonny, or simply, The Jo(h)ns.

In truth, a lot of the success for both cross country and track belongs to The Big Three ” Stevens, O’Neill and Crisofulli.

Not only is Crisofulli a tremendous, and often overlooked, cross country runner in the fall, but when it comes to the 3,200, the 800-meter interval is his specialty. Crisofulli has the third-best 800 time in 4A this year with a 1:56.22.

Crisofulli will battle it out Saturday in the open 800 with Mullen’s Andrew Berbick (1:54.33) and Broomfield’s Matt Biegner (1:55.99) for the state title. And that’s not a bad guy to have leading off a 3,200 relay on Friday.

By comparison, Sierra’s top 800 runner, Tony Thompson, is 4-tenths of a second behind Crisofulli’s best of the season. And remember Windsor, which holds the best time this year in the 3,200 relay in 4A at 8:00.09? The Wizards’ No. 1 800 runner this year is Seth Bolt, whose best open 800 time is 2:01.89.

Crisofulli gears up for races by visualizing.

“I just do the same thing every time with a big race, stay focused on what I’m going to do, what I’m going to do for the team and kick butt,” he said. “Ever since the start of the season, I’ve been envisioning regionals and state race. Now that it’s time, I’ve really been thinking about it a lot.”

Newbie?

On a team otherwise populated by seniors, Tedstrom is the new kid. That having been said, Crisofulli will not be handing the baton to a sophomore who fell off the turnip truck last week.

As soccer coach David Cope, hockey coach Gary Defina and now Parish know, Tedstrom is not exactly an average sophomore. Whether it’s been on the pitch, the ice or the oval, Tedstrom usually draws the reaction, “He’s only a sophomore?” By the way, the last Battle Mountain male athlete to get that reaction was some kid named Jonny Stevens, who’s wrapping a star-studded career with the state meet this weekend.

Whether Tedstrom takes Stevens’ place at the so-called big-man-on campus next year, only time will tell. But he’s already a man among boys as a fullback on the soccer team and all-league blueliner in hockey. He’s no stranger to postseason pressure having started five soccer playoff games the last two years as well as four more last winter with the hockey team.

This spring, he’s earned his way onto the 3,200 team with sub-2 minute splits in the relay and was fourth in the open 800 in regionals last weekend.

“It’s fun running with these guys, but there’s a lot of pressure in the meantime,” Tedstrom said. “But once you start running, all that stuff goes away.”

Jonny and John

Battle Mountain does not have a typical anchor man who slams the door or reels in the competition. On the other hand, Stevens and O’Neill are just the type of runners to take a team home.

For those who have been asleep for the last four years, Stevens has done just about everything imaginable running and playing hockey. He’s been all-league and all-state on skates and was The Denver Post’s Player of the Year last season.

In the fall, he’s been all-state three years running in cross country and has helped Battle Mountain to two state titles. In track, he has a mere six regional titles. About the only thing Stevens hasn’t done well at during his high school career is pole vaulting. His freshman year, he made state, not in the distance races, but in the pole vault. He didn’t clear 11 feet in Denver.

O’Neill, meanwhile, has had a meteoric rise in the world of running in the last year or so. He finished 103rd at the 2006 cross country state meet. Three-hundred-sixty-five days of running later, O’Neill was sixth in 2007 and a major factor in the Huskies back-to-back state titles.

This spring, he traded in his kayak for running flats and has had the same impact on the track team. As he and Stevens did in the fall, they have been battling all season for school records and top finishes. At regionals, O’Neill lead a 1-2-3 sweep of the mile with Crisofulli and Stevens in that order. In the open 3,200, Stevens got the better of O’Neill by 2.5 seconds.

And the competition will continue beyond Battle Mountain. Stevens will be running at CU, while O’Neill is doing the same at Colorado State.

“That’s the plan. I’m going to put a squid in his car,” Stevens joked.

Since neither of the two are prototypical anchors, the key for them and the team as a whole is consistency ” sub-2-minute splits.

“Last year we all ran below 2,” Stevens said. “It was all super-consistent and that’s how we (finished second). This year we’re all super-consistent, but all a bit faster. It’ll be fun to go out and see if we can go in front.”

Extra motivation

For the three seniors on the squad, there is the realization that high school is ending. The trio was as nostalgic as they could be about a final frigid practice Wednesday at Phelan Field.

There is also the Parish Factor. The coach, who has done so much for Huskies cross country and track, is leaving the school to teach in Italy for the next two years, and the team is using that as extra fuel for Friday’s race.

“Parish means the world to this school right now,” O’Neill said. “He’s brought the cross country team from one of the worst teams in the region to being one of the best teams in the whole country. The track team, we were second-to-last in our region our freshman year, and we just won regionals last weekend. He’s done so much for our team. It’s the athletes’ time to pay him back”

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


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