Local runners ready to begin cross country season at Warrior Invite
The Warrior Invitational is an important local race for the District 51 cross country teams.
The race Friday at Long Family Memorial Park will be one of the first steps on the not-so-long road to regionals in late October.
“Everyone wants to make sure to get the conditioning right,” Grand Junction coach Mallory Schmalz said. “We want to be peaking at regionals.”
The cross country season is short and intense, with the goal to be running in the state meet Oct. 30 at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in Aurora.
Palisade coach Josh Duval said state is where he sets the bar for his runners.
“I think we have a tough team this year,” Duval said. “We want to qualify for state as a team.”
Cory Massey, Greg Tarmon and Josh and Justin Ray lead the Bulldog boys.
Last season, Palisade’s Kevin Martinez qualified for the state meet as a senior, and was one of the top runners locally.
Duval said the current group of boys learned a lot from Martinez.
“They learned a lot about work ethic,” Duval said. “They are all pretty dedicated, so I’m excited.”
Three experienced runners push the Bulldogs’ girls team: Avelicia Guzman, Sarah Kem and Olevia Shafer.
“I’ve seen a lot more responsibility from them during team races,” Duval said. “We have a young team, so it’s important for them to be there.”
Grand Junction has a young team, but its top runner is experienced and ready to make a push.
Junior Kelsey Slauson has qualified for state the past two seasons and finished 123rd last year in 21:14.06.
“She’s quick,” Schmalz said. “She’s pushing herself this year.”
Charlie Medina and Andrew James lead the boys.
Central, the host of Friday’s meet, put in a lot of work in the offseason, said second-year coach Megan Mertes.
“Really, the goal is to work hard and help the team become close-knit,” Mertes said. “We try our hardest to be family oriented and good to each other.”
The Warriors are led by Erik Newhouse, Scott Brennan and Tucker Smith.
Morgan Haynie, Emma Beckstead and freshman Emily Stull should be the Warriors’ top girls.
Fruita Monument’s boys team has to replace six seniors from last year’s state qualifying team. Alex Rico was the only underclassmen with that group.
Wildcats coach Herb Huskey said Kyler Brown, Chuck Bisbee and Victor Zamora will all push the pack.
“This group learned a lot from last year’s seniors,” Huskey said.
On the girls side, juniors Sarah Horen and Shelby Mixon as well as senior Olivia Daniels should pace the team.
Other Western Slope girls runners to watch include Brandi Krieg of Grand Valley, who finished sixth in state last year. Montrose has three state qualifiers returning, Rebecca Long, Dana Shellhorn and Jaycee Taylor.
Delta’s boys return state qualifiers Josh Walker and Daniel De La Rosa. Montrose’s Sutton Frey is also a returning state qualifier.