In the running for state |

In the running for state

Preston Utley/Vail DailyThis is one of the strengths of the Battle Mountain cross country team depth. This is only about half of the team. The girls' team is a legitimate contender for the state title and the boys should make state for the second year in a row.

EAGLE-VAIL – Battle Mountain cross country begins its season at Harrison in Colorado Springs on Sept. 1 and hopes to end its campaign there with a bang.Harrison is the site of the 4A state meet and the Huskies have lofty state aspirations.And they should.The girls’ team finished fifth last year and lost only one runner to graduation. The boys finished 11th and are hoping to improve on that mark in 2005.”Instead of being comfortable with it, it’s really whetted their appetite to do better,” Huskies coach Rob Parish said of last season. “They’ve seen what they could do and it motivated a lot of them to train through the offseason. Kids like Grant (Stevenson) and Zach (Erickson) and Erika (Ghent), they showed the group what’s possible and so it’s lit a fire with everybody.”Whatever happens this season, it will not be for lack of numbers. Parish is expecting 60-70 runners by the time all is said and done.

“We do have a fantastic turnout,” he said. “We did our hill workout (Tuesday on Whiskey Hill) and we’ve never had that many kids run up the hill. The U.P.S. truck couldn’t get by us.”The ladiesSimply put, the girls’ team is a legitimate contender for the state title.But please don’t tell that to senior Sammy McCoy.”We kind of keep it in the here and now,” she said. “We concentrate on the races that are coming up and what we need to think about now to get to that point. We have to take it step by step.”

With the likes of the Ghents (Erika and Christa), Leslie Peterson, Molly McGee, McKenzie Stevens, Whitney Allard, McCoy and Marit Johnson, there’s going to be a lot of competition. Toss in transfer Jennifer Bowles from The Golden State and this team is super deep.”In races, we’re always supportive of each other and we’re always there for each other,” McCoy said. “But we always want each other to do the best we can. Yeah, we want that varsity spot, but if someone else gets it that’s better than us, yeah, we’re going to push to beat them, but they deserved that spot. I’ll just need to push myself harder.”The gentsThe boys have lost some key runners in Stevenson and Erickson, but those who come back are much improved. Jonny Stevens surprised as a freshman last year. All the sophomore did during the offseason was qualify for the U.S. Junior National Trail Running Team. This team takes the top-four male runners in the nation aged 16-19. By the way, the other three guys on the team are freshmen – in college.

With Shea Phelan, Ben Rogers, Jake Ball, Ryan Walker, John O’Neill, Jamie Farmeyer and Nodin Gaul, you’ve got a squad which can make a return trip to state.”It’s definitely going to hurt losing guys like Grant and Zach,” Parish said. “The kids all learned a lot from those guys. So, I think the expectation is that they carry the torch that these guys gave them and continue it. I think it’s a realistic expectation that they do as well as those guys did last year.”It also won’t hurt to have leadership for both teams from the likes of senior Ben Rogers, who’s in his fourth year with the program.”I just try to make sure that everybody knows that they’re all helping the team out, no matter where they are on the team,” he said. “They can be the fastest runners or the slowest runners. It doesn’t matter. They are helping and it helps them to know that.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or via, Colorado

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