Slow and steady wins the race
By Than Acuff
Last year, Crested Butte Titans cross-country coaches broke away from the typical cross-country schedule with their eyes set on long term success rather than immediate race experience. When all was said and done, the plan appeared to work and they’re sticking with it again for the 2023 season.
The team started preseason workouts on Monday, August 7 with both head coach Shari Sullivan-Marshall and assistant coach Vince Rogers back at the helm for the sixth year in a row. In addition, they have Laura Puckett-Daniels coming in a couple of times a week as a volunteer coach. Puckett-Daniels has an extended history with both the cross-country and Titans track teams as a former head coach.
The first week of workouts was a mix of getting the kids moving again and finding out where everyone was in regard to preparedness. “We were just getting people moving, some work on base miles, strength and speed and reminding them what it means to be a cross-country runner,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
The coaching trio has 18 athletes total to work with, up a couple from last season, and several of whom came into preseason ready to go. So, after that first week, the coaches are now catering to the different levels of fitness and runners they have before them.
“There are some kids who ran some nice mileage over the summer,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “The next two to three weeks we have a lot of options as far as training so we’re trying to diversify. Some may be running five to six miles in workouts while others run two to three miles and we’re stepping back the ones that trained all summer this first week.”
And, after last year’s success with limiting early races, they’re staying away from some of the early race weekends again this year and won’t toe the line as a team until a race in Grand Junction on Saturday, September 9.
“We used to try and squeeze a race in around Labor Day,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “Last year we waited until the Grand Junction race and we barely had any injuries throughout the season, and I feel like everyone popped a good result in Grand Junction, so I’m excited to try it again.”
With the numbers continuing to grow and the new plan in place, the Titans coaches have their sights set on sending both the boys’ and girls’ teams to the state championships this season. Last year the boys’ team qualified and the girls’ team just barely missed out. The entire boys’ team returns this year with all but one of the athletes from the girls’ side back again, so odds are good they’ll both make it through.
While there have been a few tweaks to their race schedule from last year, they still have two races in the valley, one in Gunnison on September 16 and then their home race on September 30 in conjunction with Emma Coburn’s Elk Run 5k.
“We definitely have a different schedule but, overall, it’ll be good competition at races and we have two local races which is always awesome,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
Until then, they’ll continue their training with the emphasis on health, longevity and peaking at regionals where they have their shot to punch their ticket to the championships.