Sprinters try to put Huskies over the top
EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” Battle Mountain track and field is no longer strictly the province of long-distance running.
Yes, Jonny Crisofulli, Tony O’Neill and John Stevens ” just making sure you’re reading ” are ready for regionals Friday and Saturday at Grand Junction. But what is making this season unique at Battle Mountain is that the Huskies have a crew of sprinters, who while under the radar by comparison to the “Big Three,” are just as important to the team’s success.
Ascher Robbins, Aaron Wilcox, Ryan Hedrick and Todd Walker are no strangers to the spotlight. Three-quarters of this team ” Andreas Apostol for Hedrick ” won the regional title in the 800-meter relay last year, setting a school record in a time of 1 minute, 30.18 seconds.
What’s more they’ve found success individually this year and are a reason Battle Mountain will be battling it out with Glenwood Springs this weekend for its first league title since 1997.
“You look forward to coming to practice every day. I’ve been with these guys all four years ” Ascher, Aaron and Ryan,” Walker said. “John (O’Neill) and Jonny (Stevens) and those kids, I’m so happy they’re getting a lot of hype and everything because they’re great athletes. But it’s fun having some sprinters on this team.”
A good problem
Track and field meets come down to math. It’s great to have a set of sisters “Jessica and Shonda Brown ” like West Grand had in 2001 who were such great multi-discipline athletes that they pretty much led the Mustangs to a state title.
Short of genetics like that, a team needs to spread its skill out. Battle Mountain’s foursome is finally filling that gap.
Wilcox and Robbins or Robbins and Wilcox tend to do that in the open 100 and 200.
“Aaron and I push each other. It’s weird,” Robbins said. “Last weekend, he beat my in the 2 and I beat him in the 1. That was nuts. He’s been beating me in the 1 all year and it’s been the other way around in the 2. We want to beat each other as long as we’re in those top spots. We want to score points.”
And they’ve been doing that well all season.
“They’ve bought into ‘It’s OK if one of us beats the other, but not anyone else from another team,'” Huskies head coach Rob Parish said. “I can’t tell you who’s going to be first in the 100 or the 200 this weekend, and that’s a good problem to have.”
While Robbins is outgoing, Wilcox is more on the quiet side. Especially on race day.
“I’m told I have this possessed look on my face before I’m about to run,” Wilcox said. “Before I get in the box, I have my head down and my eyes looking over the track. I just get into my place.”
It may be intimidating for the competition. It may be Wilcox just doing his thing. But Huskies coach Rob Parish is always happy to see that look from Wilcox.
“When he gets focused, it’s a good thing,” Parish said with a laugh. “When he gets dialed in, we’re in good shape.”
Calling Walker and Hedrick utility men just isn’t fair because the phrase has a connotation that the athlete or athletes in question are reserves. They are anything but, and they show a remarkable versatility.
Hedrick will be running in the open 200 and 400, as well as the 800 and 1,600 relays. He’s also an alternate on the 3,200 relay team. Bottom line, he’s a busy guy come race day.
“I guess I’ve been doing it since my freshman year,” Hedrick said. “I learned quickly. I was thrown into the fire my freshman year and learned to pace myself. It’s a mental hype. You can train all you want, but you’re always going to be tired after you give it your all. It’s basically mental after that first and second event.”
And when it come to these intervals ” in individual races or relays ” it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of a competitive edge.
“When you have a good day, it just gets even better,” Hedrick said. “Your adrenaline starts going because you know you’re having a good day. You know you’re passing somebody, and you know you’re better than somebody. It’s sounds terrible.”
No worries, Ryan. That’s the idea.
Meanwhile, Parish thinks ” and rightly so ” that Walker can run everything from the 100 to the mile.
“He’s been one of those kids who’s been very willing to do whatever the team needs,” the coach said of Walker. “He is so strong and so fast. He’s got a ton of natural speed, and he’s got endurance. In every race, he seems to get faster as the race goes on.”
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
And that’s why Walker is the anchor on the 800 team. Robbins leads off and Wilcox actually determines how by looking at the former’s face. If Wilcox sees that Robbins is somewhat relaxed, he knows he had to speed up the pace. If Robbins looks like he’s hurting, Wilcox knows he has time. All four are able to read each other that way.
What’s even more interesting is that Hedrick and company don’t really worry about the handoff, the make-or-break scenario of a relay.
“I don’t even think about the baton,” Hedrick said. “I just think about running as fast as I can.”
“Practice, practice, practice, practice,” Wilcox says, echoing his teammates’ sentiment.
The quartet is naturally amped for this weekend. These four seniors can leave a mark at Battle Mountain.
“The weird thing is I was sitting at home last week and I had this thought which was ‘Track is over in two weeks,'” Wilcox said. “It feels really weird. I’m used to being in high school and running track for a career. Now it’s almost over.”
And it’s not only the seniors who are running in their final races. Parish is taking a two-year leave to teach in Italy after the school year ends.
“We’re all doing this for coach Parish,” Walker said. “He’s an unbelievable coach. He came in with us and he’s going out with us. He’s an awesome guy. Everyone’s putting their game face on for him. We just want to do everything for him. He’s done everything for us. We want to give it back to him.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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