Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
A month ago, the Durango High School cross country team endured a brutal workout at Chapman Hill.
Up the steep hill, across Rim Drive to the Fort Lewis College track, a quick 400-meter lap, back down the hill.
Repeat. Four times.
DHS head coach David McMillan took the Demons to Chapman Hill earlier this week for a light workout, a tuneup before the CHSAA Cross Country State Championships on Saturday in Colorado Springs.
“We went back to Chapman Hill one more time,” McMillan said. “Standing at the bottom, looking up, I told the kids, ‘None of the hills at state are as tough as Chapman.’”
The first-year DHS head coach said the Demons had an outstanding training session at Chapman Hill in September when they did the repeat climbs.
“They conquered Chapman. They had had an unbelievable workout,” he said.
Reminding them, McMillan said, is all part of the final preparations for the culmination of the fall running season – the state cross country championships at Norris Penrose Equestrian Center in Colorado Springs.
“Monday, we did a final hard workout at the Fort Lewis track,” McMillan said as he prepped both the DHS boys and girls teams for the Class 4A state finals.
The DHS boys qualified by winning the regional championship last week at Delta behind regional runner-up Joe Maloney.
The DHS girls, behind individual champion Shannon Maloney, finished second in the region, earning the trip to Colorado Springs.
“The surface of the Fort Lewis track is much like the state course,” McMillan said. “Most of the course is hard-packed dirt and gravel.”
The Demons’ final tough workout came on the same surface they will experience Saturday morning on the Penrose equestrian trails.
“When we’re preparing for state, most of our workouts have had terrain and surfaces that duplicate the state meet,” McMillan said.
On Tuesday, the Demons’ light workout came on the trails of Dalla Mountain Park.
McMillan said the Demons this week have been focusing on the mental preparation for the state races, with fields of more than 200 runners and congested conditions at the start.
“They ran in big races in Phoenix and Arapahoe,” McMillan said. “They know what that’s like. And we’ve watched some motivational videos ... talking about harnessing the passion and unleashing the passion,” said the DHS coach, who also turned to the pages of Born to Run.
McMillan said the book talks about being at the bottom of the hill “with enough in your tank that you can move up.”
“That’s the state course. You want to get to the bottom of the hill with enough to make a move. That’s what the boys did last week (at regionals),” McMillan said after DHS runners Sean McLaughlin and Alistair McMillan powered up the hill, moving from 30th to the top 11 by race’s end.
“That’s what we have to do at state.”
The DHS boys are led by senior Joe Maloney, who will be racing in his fourth consecutive state cross country meet.
McLaughlin, Gordon Gianinny, Nicholas Turco and McMillan grouped together and finished 8-9-10-11 at last week’s regionals.
Shannon Maloney broke the DHS school record in winning her regional title last year. The DHS sophomore ran the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) Delta course in 18 minutes, 20 seconds, breaking the mark of University of Colorado All-American Laura Thweatt.
Hannah Peterson was 13th for the Demons at regionals, while Sarah Bates was 16th and Carly Pierson 20th.
“It is exciting. We’re excited to watch Bayfield, too. We watched them last weekend (at Delta). Their boys ... and Eva-Lou (Edwards), she’s really running great.”