Tapered Training Leads to High Hopes for Post-Season Prowess

The+generally+inseparable+cross+country+team+marches+down+the+street+in+the+parade.++The+team+is+considered+one+of+the+most+close-knit+groups+at+the+school.
The generally inseparable cross country team marches down the street in the parade.  The team is considered one of the most close-knit groups at the school.

The generally inseparable cross country team marches down the street in the parade. The team is considered one of the most close-knit groups at the school.

The generally inseparable cross country team marches down the street in the parade. The team is considered one of the most close-knit groups at the school.

The Cougar Daily Staff

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The Cougar Cross Country teams are healthy, in great shape, feeling fresh and fast as the last three weeks of the season arrive today.

 

The cross country teams enter the post season today with the CSML meet at Monument Valley Park.  The regular season has been a solid one for the Cougars, bringing a lot of trophies and t-shirts back to Fillmore Street, but the team may not be done.

Cross country scoring is a lot like golf, in that the lowest score wins.  Each runner on the team gets one point for every place they finish, so if Conor Strizich, 11, finishes in 7th place, he would get 7 points towards the team score.  The first five runners across the finish line add up their places and determine the team score.  A perfect score is 15 points; that is 1+2+3+4+5, meaning that the team took all of the top five spots.

 

“One year, I think it was 2012 when the boys won state and the girls got second, we got a perfect score at the CSML meet for not only the varsity boys and girls, but also the JV boys and girls. I’ve never seen anything like that happen before, such depth.” said Coach Hugill, head coach of the program since 2001.

 

While perfect scores are as rare and wonderful as a hole-in-one, the 2016 Cougars have found less dominating ways to win.  The girls’ team has no standout competitor vying for the State individual title, not seen at Coronado since Molly Palmer in 2006, but they have a more valuable, to team scoring, strength that has served them well this season: the pack.  The closer together a team can finish its top five runners, the lower the score and the harder it is to beat them.  At the Doherty Spartan Invite on Oct 7th, the Cougars had a mere 27 seconds between their top five of the day, and that is without Faith Roth, 10, who is usually in the top five but didn’t run that day due to illness.  The Cougars are hoping to carry that strength through the next three races, CSML, Regionals, and State.

Freshman Grace Abernethy and three of Coronado's nine varsity runners are within feet of each other at the Doherty Spartan Invitational at Bear Creek Park on 10/7.

Freshman Grace Abernethy and three of Coronado’s nine varsity runners are within feet of each other, and just feet behind pace-setter Chloe Cassens at the Doherty Spartan Invitational at Bear Creek Park on 10/7.

“It sure would be nice to have the whole team at full strength,” said Coach Stoughton, assistant coach since 2011. “We have had a rotating cast of runners this season due to the several illnesses that have swept through the team.  It’s nice that they are all friends, but maybe less germ-swapping would be great, too.”

It seems like the girls’ health issues are on their way out, and Coach Hugill says, “They are such a talented group and have really turned a corner on their training lately and everyone is feeling good.”

 

The boys have had their share of illness this season, as well.  Strizich, 11, struggled early in the season and last week Clay Rahaman, 12, battled a bug of his own. One time when they were all healthy, the boys took the team title at the Salida Invite.  That win showed another rarity in cross country scoring, the tie-breaker.  Certainly more dramatic than the perfect score, the tie-breaker is when two teams’ top five runners’ scores add up to the same amount.  In that case, the 6th place runners’ scores are compared.  At Salida, Eric White, 9, proved to be the deciding factor when he beat Alamosa’s senior runner by one place.

The youth of the team has shown just how remarkable this season has been for the boys.  Along with Andrew Burton, 11, Rahaman and Strizich, are the only upperclassmen varsity runners in the top 7.  Young runners dominate four of the top spots for the Cougar 7, the amount of runners who get to run at State, should the team qualify.  Sophomores Ben Swanson, Nate Stafford, Noah Enoch, and freshmen Eric White and Charlie Schroeder have been watching and learning from the examples of Rahaman and Strizich, along with other upper-classmen on the team like Burke Babeu, 12.

Freshman Eric White and Charlie Schroeder pose like the tough guys they are when they  run.

Freshman Eric White and Charlie Schroeder pose like the tough guys they are when they run.

 

Schroeder says of the example of the older boys, “It’s awesome watching and learning from guys like Conor and Clay.  It makes me want to be just like them.”  So much is obvious.  Not only has Schroeder adopted Strizich’s unicorn-like ponytail when he races, his workouts, along with the other boys, have drastically improved throughout the season.

Junior Conor Strizich's running talent is as rare as the unicorn his hair takes after...but becoming less rare is the look as young teammate Charlie Schroeder has adopted the 'aerodynamic' look, as well.

Junior Conor Strizich’s running talent is as rare as the unicorn his hair takes after…but becoming less rare is the look as young teammate Charlie Schroeder has adopted the ‘aerodynamic’ look, as well.

 

Coach Kane can attest to the improvement in practice and in meets.  “Certainly, the credit for that growth lies in their remarkable work ethic… I should know, I suffer through workouts with them every week.  They continue to surprise the competition through their dogged improvement. At this point in the season, these qualities begin to standout.”

Coach Hugill has been impressed with the boys’ work ethic this season.  “I’ll tell you, those boys have just been great to coach this season.  Every day I see how hard they work and I know that it will pay off in the long run.  To see young guys working that hard and racing as fast as they are really shows how good they can be in the next couple of years if they keep it up.”

The post-season is always a time for the Cougar Running training regimen to pay off.  “Last year, we had over 80% of our runners clock their fastest times in the last two weeks.  We have worked very hard this season and once it is time to taper off from the exhausting workouts, fresh legs and big hearts can accomplish big things,” says Coach Hugill on his expectations for the post-season.

 

It seems like everyone on the team is finally on the mend, fresh, excited and ready for some solid individual and team performances in these final three races. Good luck, Cougars!

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