Running of the ‘Cats
Fruita boys will run as a team at Class 5A state cross-country meet
It’s better to go to state as an individual in cross-country than not at all, but competing as part of a team is so much better.
Chuck Bisbee is glad he finally will know the feeling. The Fruita Monument senior qualified for the state meet as a sophomore and junior, but the Wildcats’ boys team fell short of the state cut each time.
Five teams from each of Class 5A’s five regionals qualify for state, and the Wildcats finished fifth at in the Region 2 meet last week.
“At regionals I was definitely more excited to hear the team had made it state than me individually,” said Bisbee, who finished second in 16 minutes, 21 seconds. “Being able to line up with my teammates at state, running with the guys you’ve trained with all season, will be a cool way to finish off my high school career.”
The training Bisbee referred to began in the summer, and senior Keaton Brown, a team captain along with Bisbee and senior Marshall Gore, said it’s why the Wildcats are running Saturday at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs.
“We all really worked hard as a team all year,” said Brown, who has been Fruita’s No. 2 runner this season. “We had really good attendance at our runs all summer.”
Five runners will count toward the team score at state, and teams are allowed to have seven runners. Fruita’s seven will be Bisbee, Brown, Gore, juniors Brock Curry and Kyle Kincaid and sophomores Russell McBreen and JT McLaughlin. Junior Matt Steele is the Wildcats’ alternate.
Fruita coach Herb Huskey said the boys’ goal was to get to state, and now that they are there, “They’re aiming to go and get more. ... I think they’re going into this wanting to pay some teams back from the regional.”
That’s exactly right, Gore said.
The Wildcats, with 130 points at the regional, were eight points behind fourth-place Cherokee Trail. And even third-place Grandview, with 96 points, was within Fruita’s reach, according to Gore.
“We want to jump ahead of them and show we have more in the tank,” Gore said.
Gore was among Fruita’s competitive group ranking third through seventh on the team, and Huskey said his team was 12 runners deep this season. That meant constant competition for spots on the varsity.
“If you’re not on your game one day, someone’s coming for you, and that really helped our team this year,” Gore said.
As good as everyone said
Coaches are used to hearing each summer about some new kid moving to town, and he or she competes in a certain sport and is supposed to be really good. Rarely do those athletes live up to the rumor-mill expectations.
But there are exceptions, and Palisade cross-country coach Tim Reetz was happy to learn junior Jake Erickson is what people were saying he is.
Erickson became the No. 1 runner on the Bulldogs’ boys cross-country team, no easy feat with senior Anders Van Calcar on the roster, and he’ll run in the Class 4A state meet for the first time Saturday.
But it won’t be his first state trip. Erickson finished second in the Class 2A state meet last fall. Reetz learned that tidbit by looking up state-meet results on the Internet, seeking information about his new runner.
“I pulled it up, and, ‘Holy crap, this is for real,’ ” Reetz said.
Erickson finished second at the regional, clocking in at 16:07.4, to earn his 4A state berth. He will be joined by Van Calcar, who finished sixth at the regional in 16:33.2.
Van Calcar is primed to finish his high school career with a great race, Reetz said, adding Van Calcar has worked harder and is running faster than ever as a result.
“He’s been running lights-out in the last two weeks,” Reetz said. “I think he’s going to run the best race of his career at state.”
Incredibly Tough competition
Greta Van Calcar is back at state as a sophomore after finishing 12th in the 4A girls race last year.
She’s ranked third in Class 4A entering the meet, Reetz said, and he believes she will battle with the lead pack for the top few spots. But finishing first or second will require something crazy to happen. Last year’s champion, Elise Cranny of Niwot, is back to defend her title after edging Air Academy’s Katie Rainsberger by a one-tenth of a second. Cranny finished the race in 18:43.3, nearly 45 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher.
Cranny’s a senior, and Rainsberger’s a sophomore, and they’re elite, Reetz said, adding Cranny is the top-ranked distance runner in the country for high school girls. Still, Reetz said Van Calcar’s approach will be to try to win it.
“She’s improved an incredible amount from last year,” Reetz said, adding Van Calcar is ranked in the top 50 in the nation. “What makes her so different from other girls is her tenaciousness when she runs. ... She’s just this 5-foot, 100-pound girl, but you put her on that line and fire that gun, she believes (the race is) hers. ... She has the mindset, ‘I’m just not going to lose.’ “
Furious finish nets state berth
Three-time state qualifier Greg Eccher isn’t running as part of a team at state this year, but he won’t be the only Grand Junction runner in the boys race. Junior teammate Allen Adair placed 14th at the regional, where the top 15 individuals qualify for state.
Adair had some ground to make up down the stretch, which he did with a lot of reminders along the way.
“My friends would yell out, ‘You’re 18, you’re 19,’ so I knew I some people I needed to pass,” Adair said. “I just made a move and passed like five guys and got to 14.
“I had a little bit of a cramp, but I just pushed as hard as I could, and it worked out.”
It’s Adair’s second trip to state, as he was a member of the Tigers’ boys team that qualified last year, and he believes the experience will help. After finishing 133rd in 18:44.8 last year, Adair said he would like to crack the top 50 this year.
Getting used to running
Grand Junction freshman Clarissa Berry was the only area girl to qualify for the 5A girls state meet, not bad for someone in her first year of competitive running.
She had a good aerobic base, though, because she’s been swimming for three years, and she decided to try cross-country because she thought it would be fun. The races, however, weren’t so fun at first.
“I got sick, I got so nervous before each race,” she said. “For about the first five races I was so scared.”
Fortunately, she added, “It’s getting easier and easier.”
She means the idea of competing. As for the racing itself, she said, “The races are awful. Once you’re in them, you’re like dying the whole time.”
Berry said she has no expectations going into the state meet.
“If I feel great, I’ll run great,” she said. “I’m going to run the best I can, and whatever place I get, I’ll take it.”