Palisade XC team ready to run, full of ambition

QUICKREAD

GRAND JUNCTION

League: 5A Southwestern

Coach: Mallory Schmalz

Key runners: Kelsey Saulson, Sr.; Nicole Seibold, Soph., Trinity Simmons, Soph.; Charlie Medina, Jr., Greg Eccher, Soph.

Outlook: Many of the team’s top runners return this year. Medina is looking to improve on his 84th-place finish at state last year, and Eccher, Saulson, Seibold and Simmons are all hoping to qualify for state after missing last year.

FRUITA MONUMENT

League: 5A Southwestern

Coach: Herb Huskey

Key runners: Sarah Horen, Sr., Jen Campbell, Sr.; Kyler Brown, Jr., Chuck Bisbee, Soph.

Outlook: Brown, who took 55th at state last year, leads a boys team hungry to return to the state meet. The girls, also with state hopes, have a core group of seniors that will be complemented by freshmen Karen Rico and Michaela Hoffman.

CENTRAL

League: 5A Southwestern

Coach:  Megan Mertes

Key runners: Emma Beckstead, Sr.; Orrin Boese, Sr.

Outlook: Mertes expects to see lots of growth from her teams. Boese, who moved to Grand Junction from Washington state, will lead a freshman-heavy boys team. Beckstead hopes to have a standout year to finish her high school career. 

PALISADE

League: 4A Western Slope

Coach: Tim Reetz

Key runners: Sarah Kem, Sr., Katie Mueller, Soph.; Cory Massey, Sr.

Outlook: Katie Mueller looks to improve in her sophomore season after placing 42nd in state last year, and Reetz is hoping seniors Kem and Massey can join her at the meet.



As a freshman on the Palisade High School cross country team last year, Katie Mueller was humbled by the competition.

“I didn’t expect the season to be so hard. I didn’t expect everybody to be so good, so I guess I expected it to be easier than it was, and it turned out to be a lot more of a difficult challenge,” Mueller said.

“By the time state came around, I was pretty confident in how I did, but state was a big shock. It was scary.”

Mueller, the only Bulldog to make it to state last year, placed 42nd in the Class 4A meet.

“This year I’m not taking anything for granted,” she said.

The sophomore leads a Palisade team full of ambition and hopes to improve her placing at the state meet.

First-year Palisade coach Tim Reetz, who served as an assistant to then-coach Josh Duval last year, said many of Mueller’s early season struggles came from a lack of knowledge about the competition.

“Katie was a freshman running against seniors, against people she didn’t even know existed,” Reetz said. “She was in fifth grade when they were in junior high.

“About halfway through the year she really started to hit her stride in her workouts, and the last few weeks just really killed it.”

Mueller’s goal is a top-25 finish at the state meet.

She spent the summer working out so she could start the season ready to run.

“It’s going to take a lot more focus and extra work,” she said.  “Last year, I was a little less prepared and didn’t know what to expect, so this year just having that knowledge will help me a lot.”

Reetz considers Mueller’s goal a reachable one.

“We’ve got nothing but huge hopes,” he said. “We expect her to lead packs throughout the year in races and at the state meet we’d really like to see a jump to top 20.”

Reetz hopes Mueller’s efforts can push the rest of the team.

“Our teams are very young so you have to learn to work hard and learn to win,” he said. “We haven’t been good in (several) years, so we’re trying to get over that hump.”

Other than Mueller, the Bulldogs are hoping for state-qualifying seasons from seniors Sarah Kem on the girls team and Cory Massey on the boys.

“He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen for a high school kid,” Reetz said of Massey. “He ran all summer. He’s running 60 to 70 miles a week. I really expect that he, Greg Tarman and Anders Vancalcar are going to lead our guys.”

The Bulldogs’ goal, he said, is to qualify the boys as a team for the state meet and get the Palisade cross country team on the winning track.

“I think we’re on the right track,” he said.


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