Eagle Valley Track Club conquers in Salida
Not bad for a dress rehearsal
This wasn’t exactly planned out in advance, but spontaneous can be good.
“It was super last-minute,” Eagle Valley Track Club’s Joslin Blair said. “We just thought we’d do our best and see how it goes. I think (coach Charlie) Janssen kind of mentioned it five days before and signed us up three days before.”
The “it” was the National High School Trail Running Championships in Salida, and the Eagle Valley Track Club, powered by Joslin and Samantha Blair and Gabby Fuentes, ended up winning the whole shooting match.
Joslin and Samantha finished 1-2, with Fuentes in 20th.
“Just knowing that Joslin and Samantha were the strongest there from (starting) gun to (finishing) tape and leading the whole thing was great,” said Janssen, who coaches the EVTC with Myriah Blair.
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The reason it’s called the Eagle Valley Track Club, as opposed, to say, Eagle Valley cross-country is that the Blairs and Fuentes can’t compete for their school outside the season, according to CHSAA rules. In an astonishing coincidence, Battle Mountain’s cross-country team competes as the Vail Valley Running Club in out-of-season events.
With the proper disclaimers in place, Saturday’s race was a sneak peek of sorts to what could be thrilling seasons ahead for whatever incarnations of Eagle Valley running in the upcoming fall and spring.
A little extra
The standard high-school cross-country race is 5 kilometers (or 3.1 miles), and Joslin Blair won in 38 minutes, 53 seconds. Either Joslin has lost several steps or the race was actually 8.8 kilometers (5.5 miles).
Not only was the race longer, but the course featured more than 700 feet of elevation change, a lot more than regular cross-country courses that everyone will see come the regular season.
For those less familiar with running, this is base-building season. In preparing for the 5K race season, the Blairs and Fuentes are among those running a whole lot more than 5K on a regular basis to build up endurance.
So 8.8K was A-OK, just another workout or an offseason dress rehearsal.
Adding to the usefulness of the race was the fact that only 40 percent or so of the course was wide open, the rest being singletrack, where it was nearly impossible to pass competitors.
This is fantastic practice for races like those at Norris-Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs, the site of the opening race of the season next month, the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, aka pre-state, and the state meet in October. That course requires a quick start for positioning without blowing one’s gas tank for the rest of the race.
Both Blairs did well on that count, having vast non-cross-country race experience, while Fuentes, running in her first trail race, gained valuable experience.
And, as for the hills, well, bring them on.
“It was a fun race just to prepare for the season, another opportunity to do a hilly course. Usually, most races have one or two little hills. It just helps you power up small hills and kill it on the downhill.”
Joslin Blair seems to have been around forever, having been a sensation the moment she stepped on campus. Having finished 14th, seventh and sixth at state cross-country the past three years and earning a myriad of medals at state track, including the 1,600-meter state title in 2018, Joslin is now a senior.
She has a lot of goals.
Meanwhile, Samantha joked that she was “clueless” last year as a freshman. Most runners want to be that clueless as a first-year student — ninth at state cross-country, three state medals in track and field (800, 1,600 and 300 hurdles) and the school’s 5K record. (Yes, little sister took that from big sister.)
That’s a monster 1-2 punch, which well could be turning into a 1-2-3 combo with Fuentes.
“It was really super fun to have Gabby there,” Samantha said. “She really did awesome.”
While the Eagle Valley Track Club continues to train informally, of course, the first day of official practice is Aug. 12.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.