“We want to cultivate that passion in our athletes”
by Than Acuff
Same scene, different pre-season for the Crested Butte Titans track team as they prepare for the 2017 season. The track is completely buried in snow, leaving the team the hallways and gyms of Crested Butte Community School, the dusty local roads and a couple of days a week at Western State Colorado University (WSCU) to train.
Fortunately, they have coach Laura Daniels (formerly Puckett) back at the helm after a three-year hiatus.
Daniels coached the track team from 2009 to 2013 before turning to teaching at the school, pursuing a master’s degree and getting married. Now, with her master’s completed, the wedding done and her feet underneath her in the classroom, Daniels is back.
“Coaching led me to teaching and I always wanted to get back into coaching, it’s my first love,” says Daniels. “I felt like this was the year.”
Anne Weise, who coached with Daniels back in 2013, joins Daniels as an assistant coach and Amber Scott, a four-year runner for Daniels, has jumped in as well to volunteer.
“Anne, Amber and I are passionate about track,” says Daniels. “We want to cultivate that passion in our athletes.”
The first thing Daniels noticed about the team when they opened pre-season workouts on March 1 was the size of the program. When Daniels left she had more than 50 athletes out for track. This year, she has 26 as of this week, with no seniors and only five juniors making for a young squad.
“We’re doing a lot of teaching right now,” says Daniels. “With such a young team we can teach the kind of track, attitude and culture we want on the team.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the constant juggle of finding ways for her team to train, given the reality of living at 9,000 feet.
“The biggest thing is to be flexible and adapt to what’s available,” says Daniels. “We use all of the facilities we can get our hands on.”
That included a trip to the WSCU Fieldhouse on Monday, but as luck would have it, the athletes needed waivers to use the facility. Daniels adapted and took the team to the outdoor track, only to find out there were only about 300 meters of track clear of snow to use.
“It was a classic Crested Butte track moment,” says Daniels. “Thankfully our kids are tough and just went with it.”
The coaches got their first glimpse into what the kids can do on Saturday, March 11 when they headed to Montrose for the Icicle Classic, an annual pre-season meet for the track team. Ultimately, Daniels liked what she saw.
“Given the hodge-podge of practices we’ve had, my expectations were far exceeded on Saturday,” says Daniels.
A couple of highlights included Ty Sherman who, after practicing jumping just one day, tied for first in the high jump in Montrose. In addition, the one-two distance punch of Sydney Petersen and Maria O’Neal appears to be carrying over from their success in cross-country last fall. Petersen won the 1,600 meters and 800 meters, while O’Neal finished second in the 800 meters and third in the 1,600.
Daniels found out some more about her athletes as well that has the coaches now reworking a few things as they continue with workouts.
“We got a good sense of where they are and are making adjustments now,” says Daniels. “There’s a little bit of reconfiguring going on. I feel like with track there’s a place for everyone on the team, it’s just figuring out what their place is—letting their strengths shine while continuing to work on their weaknesses.”
The team heads to Center on Friday, March 17 for their first state qualifier meet of the season and will continue working toward bringing the program up to speed with some goals in mind.
“I always want to get as many kids to state as possible,” says Daniels. “But, internally, my goal is to help kids realize they can accomplish more than they think they can and track is a great venue for that. I want them to come together and feel that sense of being on a team, pushing each other and realizing they are in this together.”