BCHS Cross Country
Before dawn breaks on a sultry August morning, the Boulder Creek High School track is alive with activity. From the parking lot, voices emerge from the darkness and faint silhouettes form shadows in the hint of a morning glow.
Not a minute after the 5:15 a.m. starting time, a shout goes out to all of the late arrivers. Take off for the warm-up is imminent. Moments later, a flock of about 60 students turns south, slowly breaking from walk to jog to a rhythmic slow run as it embarks upon four loops of the track. Each athlete finds a feel for the ground, easing into the tempo of another practice.
When the morning sun has lit the sky, and heat begins to descend on the desert, the cross-country team gathers to stretch. I marvel at the students’ dedication; 5:15 a.m. was closer to late night than early morning during my high school summer vacations. For these athletes, voluntary workouts six days a week began in late June, five of those days at this hour, with a slight respite given on Saturday mornings when practice begins at 7 a.m.
“Once you start running at this hour, you can’t just stop,” commented senior cross -country runner Jessica Anderson. “There are some days that you think about not showing, but you just get through it.”
Anderson, who joined the team last year as a junior, having moved with her family from Oklahoma, has been running competitively since fifth grade. She is a versatile track athlete who runs middle distance events and also competes in high jump. Anderson was unaccustomed to the 3.1 mile distance of cross country (they only run 2 miles in Oklahoma) and will be looking for a major improvement in personal times this year in an effort to help her team reach its goals.
“We want to make it to state this year,” Anderson asserted, acknowledging that the team’s performance last season was not indicative of what has been a stellar program in seasons past. The team finished twelfth at the sectional championship in 2011, missing qualifying for the state championship by four spots.
“Last year was a rebuilding year for the girls’ team,” said head coach Andrea Williams. “The season prior, we had a roster full of senior girls who ran together, leaving little room for younger athletes to run at the varsity level. Those who ran last year will be better for the experience, and we have high hopes for the team to be competitive in the section this year.”
Brooke Binns and Alissa Hazine led the girls’ team in 2011. Both girls bring strong pre-season preparations to the upcoming 2012 schedule. The two, along with Anderson, are expected to be major team contributors this year.
The wild card this season could be the addition of Taylor Cunningham. Cunningham, who started last track season as a sprinter, showed promise as a part of the 4 x 800m relay team. That promise has turned to an off-season full of extra miles, and Cunningham may only be scratching the surface as to where her athletic talents may take her over longer distances.
The boys’ team enters the 2012 season full of promise, also. Placing fourth in its section and tenth at the state championships a year ago, the Jags return six of their starting seven runners. Furthermore, they are returning 10 of the top 11 runners from last year’s depth chart, a factor that will prove significant as the Jags look to firm up the middle and bottom part of their team.
On paper, the team appears to have the perfect mix of senior leadership and underclassmen talent that could take them close to the podium at the end of the season.
Senior Jake Prickett, who shares the role of co-captain with fellow senior Austin Galeazzo, feels fortunate to have the upcoming opportunity, “I started cross country as a cross-training sport for competitive skiing and just found that I love it. We have a real team atmosphere, to the point that it almost feels like a family.”
This California native, who wishes to follow the family tradition of entering the Marine Corps, believes that winning the sectional championship is an attainable goal. To do so, he and his fellow captain intend to convert their hard summer training miles into results on the course – to improve upon their 22nd and 26th place finishes, respectively, from last year’s event. The two will be more than ably assisted by fellow seniors Aron Kirkendoll and James Kuntz, both of whom ran in sectional and state meets last year.
However, the four seniors will likely be chasing Junior Alex Nova. Nova was a standout on the team last season as a sophomore, finishing second at the sectional meet and twelfth at the state titles. Seven seniors and four juniors finished in front of him at the state meet, with the nearest fellow sophomore nine places behind him. Nova will be looking to build upon this sophomore success and will be a key ingredient in the Jags’ achievements.
Last season, two freshmen, Cameron Feifer and Luke Meyer, shared some of the varsity responsibilities. It was Feifer who edged out Meyer to make the starting seven for both the sectional and state meets, but it was Meyer who had a stronger track season in the spring. Both athletes are certain to be stronger as sophomores and will be pivotal in securing those all-important final counting positions on the team.
The boys’ team will also benefit from an addition to the coaching staff. Andrea Williams has overseen the program for the past six years with the assistance of Erin Stuart. In the past, athletes have filled volunteer roles, and this year is no different; Lexi Feifer and Casey Lozano are in place this season. The major addition to the coaching staff is Tom Clarke, a former collegiate runner at NAU and veteran of 26 marathons, with a personal best of 2:28:30. Clarke has joined the faculty in the mathematics department. Not only does Clarke bring his own personal experience and knowledge of training, he also has the ability to run with the top student athletes, which helps to push them through their trainings.
It will not be until the end of October that the efforts of the early mornings in June, July and August will be realized. But for both teams the goals have been set and the belief is evident that this season will be one of great significance.