Run across the Royal Gorge
by Than Acuff
Titans cross-country coach Austin Ross threw another wrench in the schedule this year. In an effort to see new courses and different teams, Ross opted to take his team to Cañon City for the first time to run in the Cañon City Invitational on Thursday, September 29.
“This one was such a cool venue, it’s worth the drive over there,” says Ross.
The Cañon City course was definitely unique, starting with a long climb right from the start before turning downhill, with the final one-tenth of a mile taking runners across the Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in the United States.
Ross admits he knew the course dynamics would test the Titans after the past couple of weeks running on relatively flat courses, but it’s all part of his plan each year to push the team during certain parts of the season.
“Every year we do a race around this time in the season that has a beastly hill—it’s an extra test for the team,” says Ross. “It was our first hilly race in a while and the kids dealt with it.”
With such a unique course, Ross explained to his team that splits and times would not be the focus. Rather, they would have to gauge success a different way.
“It’s always a different game when you go a few weeks on flat courses and then have a hilly course,” says Ross. “You base success of the race on feel.”
Speaking of feel, both Titan varsity girls runners Maria O’Neal and Sydney Petersen explained to Ross prior to the race that they weren’t feeling 100 percent. Given that, expectations were mixed, but in the end both O’Neal and Petersen gritted their way to solid results as O’Neal placed ninth and Petersen 13th among the throngs of Front Range runners.
“They didn’t have their usual kick at the end but they definitely had very respectable races,” says Ross.
Vincent Michel carried the Titan colors in the boys’ varsity race lining up against some of the top programs in the state and placing 63rd.
“It was some pretty stiff competition and I think he held his own,” says Ross.
When matched up against his 2A peers though, Michel is on pace for a post-season showing if he continues to improve the way he has the past couple of weeks.
“Right now he is ranked 14th in the region so he’s on the cusp,” says Ross. “If he continues to improve and peaks at regionals, he could make it to state.”
The Titans will head back to familiar territory this weekend as they line up for the Delta Invitational on Friday, October 7 to match wits with regional foes.
“We will get a look at our competition at regionals and try to show that we belong and set the tone for regionals,” says Ross.