“Everyone really stepped up this race”
The Titans cross-country team kicked off their 2009 season two weeks ago with a stellar showing across the board at the Delta Invitational. Three members of the team set personal records in the opening meet, including junior Erin Kelly, who won in Delta breaking the 19-minute mark with a personal best time of 18:44 on the flat five-kilometer course.
Senior Nicholas Harper-Johnston is poised for a breakout performance in his final year of high school cross-country, setting a personal record as well in Delta with a time of 17:57.
Furthermore, nearly every one of the ten Titans at the race posted a faster split in the final stretch of the race, giving coach Connie Hayden even more to work on as the season progresses.
“I’m working on them to go faster with each mile,” says Hayden. “That indicates that they have the strength. Everyone felt really good at the end, which is awesome.”
This past weekend the Titans headed to Leadville for the Lake County Invitational on Saturday, September 12. With a hilly course at high altitude, times are fairly nebulous in relation to other courses.
As a result, Hayden used previous times of her veteran athletes on the same course to gauge improvement.
In the end, several upperclassmen shaved time off their marks last season as the freshman tagged onto their heels to post solid finishes.
“Everyone really stepped up this race,” says Hayden.
With Kelly gone for the race, junior Hannah Smith took charge for the girls, posting a time of 23:23 to take third place. Freshman Amber Scott caught hold of Smith’s pace to help push her into a top-ten finish as well in just her second high school race, taking ninth place with a time of 24:11.
Meanwhile the next four Titan girls, junior Madeline Malzhan, sophomores Shelby Knopf and Jessie D’Aquila and junior Jenna D’Aquila, remained tight through the tough course to finish 31st through 34th, respectively.
Harper-Johnston continued his pace set a week ago in Delta, clipping a minute off his time in Leadville a year ago to take 14th place with a time of 21:00. Sophomore Jeff Hargrove posted a time of 23:12 to take 29th place and sophomore David Bright ran on the heels of Hargrove to cut a minute off his time last year and come in 31st place.
“Everyone just thrived up there,” says Hayden. “They’ve been practicing really well together and that really showed in the race.”
The team has two races this week as they head to Colorado Springs on Thursday, September 17 to compete in the Air Academy Invite and then return to the Gunnison Valley to run in the Cowboy Cross Country Invitational on Saturday, September 19. The course is behind the K-8 school in Gunnison and is the best chance to catch Titan cross-country in action, both middle school and high school. The high school boys race starts at 10 a.m. and the girls will hit the trail at 10:45 a.m.