The Durango cross country teams are ready to race, and right off the bat they’ll get to see how they stack up against some of the top teams in the state.
On Saturday, the team will run at Battle Mountain and the DHS girls, ranked No. 3 in Class 4A, will likely get to compete with No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state, defending champion Niwot and Battle Mountain. The girls finished fourth in the state last season and only lost one runner from its pack. The DHS boys, meanwhile, finished sixth in the state last season after scoring a league title, but graduated half of its state team. Niwot also won the boys title last year while Battle Mountain placed fourth.
“I’m anxious to see where we stand,” said DHS head coach Ken Flint.
“It’s intimidating, but at the same time it’s cool to compete with the top teams,” junior Willow Lott said.
For the DHS girls, the team’s strength comes in how close all of its top runners are to each other.
“The difference between our first runner and last runner (on varsity) is minimal,” Ashley Forrest said.
During a two-mile time trial earlier this season, Flint said the team’s top-seven girls all finished within 30 seconds of each other, which is similar to last season.
“Last year we had the best pack time in the state,” senior Angela McManus said.
“Our pack time was one minute,” Lott said.
Running together also helps the girls pace each other and push each other. McManus said Lott, for instance, goes out fast so she’ll stay behind McManus for the first mile and then Lott will pass her and McManus will try and keep up.
“It pushes you past what you think you can do,” McManus said about running in a pack.
Lott led the team at state last year with a 17th-place finish in 19:32. McManus placed 24th; Abby Frehr crossed 30th; Tea Forrest finished 39th; Maddy Persing, the team’s lone senior to make the trip, placed 47th; and Kristina Bodewes finished 72nd.
“A lot of girls from state last year are back, we only lost one senior,” Tea Forrest said. “We’ve been getting in some quality workouts and have been able to push each other.”
The coach also said the team has some strong freshmen this season, including Bryn Aggleles, Sophia Voss and Dewa Ilg. Ilg actually started her high school career by winning the Boggy Draw Bear Chase last Friday in Dolores. “It was great,” Ilg said. “My goal was to win it, but I wasn’t fully expecting to.”
Voss, meanwhile, said this her first time competing on a running team, while Aggleles said she’s “super excited” be running with the older athletes. “Everyone is so fast and so nice,” Aggleles said.
On the Durango boys’ side, most of its state squad from last year graduated, but it returns a couple of its top runners.
“The guys lost five of their top-seven so there’s some good opportunities for younger kids to step up and get some experience,” Flint said.
Seniors Land Lambert and Damian Frausto will lead the charge this season. Lambert finished 24th in the state last year in 16:35, while Frausto placed 54th in 17:17. Paul Knight led the team with a 10th-place finish in 15:59, becoming only the second Demon to run a sub-16 on the state course at Colorado Springs’ Norris Penrose Events Center. Aiden Quayle, meanwhile, finished 48th, Sam Persing placed 89th and Jack Benner finished 93rd at state.
Frausto and Lambert said they want to become the third and fourth Demons to crack the 16-minute mark at state and also finish in the top-10 this season, and started the season already in good shape.
“I’m in way better shape than before,” Frausto said. “It takes a lot of outside preparation. You really have to be self motivated to have any results.”
“We’ve taken about a week off in the last year,” Lambert said.
Other Demons have also shown they’re up for the challenge.
“We have a few freshmen looking pretty good, just the sixth and seventh positions we’re trying to figure that out,” Frausto said.
“The key with the guys is staying healthy,” Flint said.
Besides this weekend’s race and the state meet, the Desert Twilight in Arizona is one the athletes have marked in their calendars.
“Desert Twilight is one I’m looking forward to,” Lambert said. “It’s on fast grass with good competition.”
“All of the southwest goes there and you run at night,” Tea Forrest said.
“It’s such a fun trip,” Lott said. “It’s at sea level and it’s super fast, everyone is wearing glow sticks and they have fireworks at the start.”
The team will also host a race Oct. 1 at the Hillcrest Golf Club, including a community race. “It will be a fun thing,” Flint said.
The coach also said he was thankful to have some strong assistant coaches this season, including Maddie Obernersser and Bathany Gleason. “They add value to the team and are working to make these kids better.”
The coaches and athletes, however, just seemed glad at the prospect of a normal season again.
“I’m just thankful to have a season this year,” Flint said. “I’m appreciative of the time they get to run. It’s special to be part of a team and we’re trying to build memories for these kids that will last.”