Talented runners drive Fruita cross country team to success

WITH ONLY SEVEN SPOTS AVAILABLE to run on the varsity team, it’s an impressive sight to see the entire Fruita Monument girls cross country team huddle before races. The Wildcats have more than 50 total runners in the boys and girls program, which will be on display Saturday at the Anna Banana Invitational at Connected Lakes State Park.

Numbers can be deceiving.

It would be easy to look at the Fruita Monument cross county team, see its 50-plus athletes out running and think the Wildcats are successful because they have so many participants.

Having big numbers doesn’t hurt, but to coach Herb Huskey, it is the individual runners that make the Wildcats such a good team.

“They are all great kids. We don’t have a bad kid on the team,” Huskey said. “But they are also talented, so it is not that we are good because we have so many kids, but we are good because of their work ethic.”

Huskey has been the head coach for nine seasons and with the cross country program for 14. He said numbers had been between 30 to 35 runners since the 2000 season. The past couple of years, though, those numbers almost doubled.

With seven varsity spots available for the girls and boys team, Huskey said it makes for great competition within the team.

“I have not had the same seven boys or girls every week,” Huskey said. “So they knock each other off, which in turn knocks the times down, so the times are always getting faster.”

Huskey added that there is an unspoken rule within the team that if a runner is in the top five and has good grades, the athlete has a good opportunity to remain there for the varsity race. It is the final two spots that have the chance to change.

“Maybe it’s a kid who has great work ethic that works their way into that spot,” Huskey said. “So everyone is fighting for those final four spots.”

At the top of the boys team is Woody Seagren, who said the big team gives everyone motivation.

“It pushes everybody to a different level,” Seagren said. “But we all encourage each other and that makes the group strong.”

Right behind Seagren is Tyler McDermott, James Mauch, Jordan Potterton, John Zamora, Robin Bisbee and Caleb Erkman, all of whom are less than a minute apart.

“The boys have hit their goals already and for the first time in a few years we have had to set some new goals,” Huskey said. “They are packing up and you will see some fast times.”

But the easy question would be with so many runners and only seven available varsity spots, how could that not create conflict among the athletes?

The top female runners, Olivia Daniels and Kasey Mortensen, are good friends, but they are also each other’s biggest competition on the team. They’ve gone back and forth all season as the Wildcats’ top runner.

“We get along really well but we are also really competitive,” Daniels said. “So it makes it really fun.”

Both sophomores, Mortensen added being friends allows the two girls to compete and not have any hurt feelings.

“We are really good friends, so it allows us to push each other in a good way,” Mortensen said.

All the runners will be pushing a little more this weekend at the Anna Banana Invitational at Connected Lakes.

The race is in honor of Anna Janowitz, a Fruita Monument student and cross country runner who died in a car accident in 2002 on her way to practice.

“This race is not just our race, it’s our community’s race,” Huskey said. “When that tragic accident happened, only because of how great these kids are and the type of families they come from can we come together seven years after such a terrible accident and rejoice about Anna.

“We are going to come together and have a good time.”


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