On the van ride to the Liberty Bell Invitational, Moffat County High School coach Dustin Ence talked to his team about who would be the teams to beat at the meet. Most of the talk centered on Centaurus and Evergreen, teams that were ranked ahead of them in Class 4A.
"We talked about how they needed to run with those teams," Ence said. "The strategy was to go out with them and see how well we could compete."
Then the Centaurus tent was right next to the Bulldogs' camp before the race and there were more reminders of who the team to beat was.
Ence watched the boys race from the 1.5 mile mark and was disappointed at first to see a group of Centaurus guys run by before his Bulldogs.
"We needed to get out faster in a big race like that," he said. "But that is why we go to those meets during the season so we can see what we need to do for the big meet at the end."
The finish didn't look much better for the Bulldog coach.
"I saw a lot of Evergreen and Centaurus finish toward the front so I thought the best we placed was third,"
Ence said. "But when the standings came out I was pleasantly surprised with second."
Centaurus finished with 79 points led by three top-10 finishers. The Bulldogs were led by senior Anthony Loughran and freshman Jake Miller who finished ninth and 10th respectively. Then senior Justin Ellgen and junior Steve Crisp came in within 30 seconds of Loughran. Sophomore Ricardo Pinedo was the fifth man and the Bulldogs pack was able outscore Evergreen despite the Lumberjacks' first two runners coming in first and fourth.
As the top freshman in the race, Miller continued to establish himself as one of the top rookies in Class 4A as well as impress his coach.
"Jake had really been running tough," Ence said. "If we can get some of those upperclassmen up there to challenge him, we'll be strong."In the girls race, sophomore Cortney Grandbouche and junior Angela Nelson continue to lead the team with Grandbouche finishing 15th and Nelson in the top 30. The girls team finished eighth in the race.
"We had a goal of top five going in," Ence said. "But the good news is that the younger runners continue to learn how to run at a big meet."
The Bulldog JV travels Wednesday to run a meet in Vernal, Utah. It is the only exclusive JV meet for the Bulldogs this year.
"It will be nice to go and focus just on the JV," Ence said. "Sometimes they might not get the attention they deserve."
The varsity will pack its bags for a road trip this weekend to Salt Lake City for that state's biggest meet of the season, the Murray Invitational. Ence, who ran at Brigham Young University, is looking forward to taking his team back to his running grounds.
"This will be another big meet for us but with less pressure because we'll never see those teams again," he said. "The trip and the meet is kind of a reward for the team to relax and have fun for a weekend."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.