Intense scene expected for state cross country
State championships in any sport can be a high intensity scene.
That might be best exemplified at the Class 5A-2A cross country state championships this Saturday at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins.
“You see all these unbelievable teams all year long and you think that’s a great team,” Fruita Monument coach Herb Huskey said. “Then you get to state and you see a whole slew of them. Every team does a great job of getting that much faster when it counts.” The Fruita Monument boys cross country team will be one of 25 teams competing to win a team championship. The Wildcats competed last year and finished 23rd. With six of the seven runners being seniors, Fruita is hoping for a better result.
“Our goal is top 10,” senior runner Keenan Widhammer said. “Seeing the best at state makes you want to go and compete that much harder.”
Fruita will be led by its returning state qualifying runners in Woody Seagren (90th in 2008), James Mauch (134), and John Zamora (147). Seniors Widhammer, Tyler Mcdermott, John Kolb and sophomore Alex Rico round out the runners at state.
“These guys have the most unbelievable work ethic,” Huskey said. “We have been tapering down, getting some rest and preparing for one big race.”
But the race can be an intimidating thing with more than 170 of the best runners in the state in one field. Working to the advantage of the Fruita boys is the fact they have already run the course earlier in the year at the pre-state race in September.
“We got to the course at the beginning of the year, so we understand it,” Huskey said. “But what happens when you get a few more teams out there, everyone is battling for position.” The 5A boys will be the final race of the day beginning at 1 p.m.
The Fruita boys were the only team to make the state tournament, but two individual runners qualified. On the girls side, Grand Junction’s Kelsey Slauson finished 11th at the Region 1 meet in Littleton last Friday. She is the lone girl competing from the Grand Valley in the 5A girls race at 11:30 a.m.
Slauson, a sophomore, is running in the state race for the second straight year. This year, Slauson is coming off a confidence-building run at the regional meet.
“I felt like my finish was one of the best I’ve had all season,” Slauson said of the 20:16 she posted. “I had a good kick at the end, and had good competition.”
Slauson finished 52nd at last year’s state race, but is taking a different mentality into this year’s race.
“This year I have more confidence,” Slauson said. “I would like to beat my place from last year and hopefully finish in the top 40.”
The final District 51 runner at the state tournament is Palisade’s Kevin Martinez. The senior finished in fourth place at the 4A Region 5 meet in Aspen. Martinez ran a 17:44.7 which was only two tenths of a second behind the third-place finisher.
“Kevin has a lot of heart, and I never worry about a kick with him,” Palisade coach Josh Duval said. “He knows what type of race he needs to run to beat good runners.”