The running coach
Grand Junction cross country coach motivates team with her accomplishments
She runs the grinding distance mountain races for the beauty, the opportunity to take on a mountain instead of a stopwatch, and for the feeling of lungs exploding and legs aching.
“That sensation of having a steep hill to run,” she said.
Grand Junction High School’s first-year cross country coach is not the ordinary instructor. In August, the 28-year-old broke the women’s record in the Pikes Peak Ascent in Colorado Springs. Actually, she smashed it. The record had stood since 1981, and Dobson beat it by more than 8 minutes.
So, the kids listen to coach.
“She gives us inspiration,” said Charlie Medina, who placed fourth for the Tigers at their regional meet last week. “She makes us read articles about really fast girls.”
In that case, Dobson would dole out articles about herself. In June, she won the female division of the Mt. Washington Road Race in New Hampshire, which was the U.S. National Mountain Running Championships for females. She clocked the second-fastest women’s time in the race’s history, according to Running Times Magazine.
The next month, Dobson came just short of qualifying for the U.S. Mountain Running Team. At the U.S. Mountain Running Championships at New Hampshire’s Loon Mountain Race, Dobson placed sixth in the female division. The top four qualified for the U.S. World Championships race.
Sure, she lost. But that only meant she could focus on the Pikes Peak Ascent and, in September, Switzerland’s Jung Frau Marathon, where she placed third among women in a race that drew some of the best mountain-running athletes in the world.
But her domination in the Ascent was a landmark performance.
“It was an unexpected surprise,” Dobson said. “It was definitely a good lesson in not setting limits to what you can achieve.”
And that’s what she hopes her Grand Junction high school runners glean from those articles. She showed her runners stories of how far other high school runners are pushing themselves. Or articles portraying mental toughness from various running-based websites and magazines.
“She makes you want to work harder,” Tigers runner Sam Melchor said.
And the Grand Junction boys, fueled by Dobson’s inspiration, finished fourth in the Class 5A Region 2 meet in Arvada.
In doing so, they qualified as a team for Saturday’s state championships at Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. In Class 4A and 5A, a qualifying team can run seven runners, but only five can score.
At the regional meet, the Tigers were led by Medina, a senior, who took fourth, and Greg Eccher, a junior, who placed 10th.
Fruita Monument junior Chuck Bisbee placed sixth. He will represent the Wildcats at the state meet.
“He’s excited, obviously,” Fruita coach Herb Huskey said. “I think he wishes he had some more teammates with him. But obviously, that kid is running year-round, all the time, so he knows how to be by himself, and he’s OK with it.”
Dobson is familiar with running solo as well. And next year, she plans to try to qualify for the U.S. Mountain Running Team once again.
She’ll work on her weakness, running downhill, and try to improve her obvious strength of chugging uphill. All that in addition to coaching the Tigers with whom she often practices.
“I ran cross country and track in high school and enjoyed it,” said Dobson, who said she placed 18th in the state cross country meet her senior season at Arapahoe High School.
Despite not being elite in high school, Dobson continued running while attending Colorado State University. In her early 20s, Dobson thought she might not be able to run as she battled through patella femoral syndrome in a knee, a hip injury and problems in her lower back.
“Little things cropped up pretty much everywhere,” she said.
Only in the past three years, Dobson has burned to compete again. She began running half and full marathons. She continuously upped the intensity. And, of course, she read a bunch of articles.
“I like to give out articles,” Dobson said. “It’s good to be a student of your sport. For me, running cross country and track in high school was so positive and enjoyable of an experience that coaching and giving back to that sport was something I always wanted to do.”