Middle school cross country is improving

Four years ago, David Morris took over a cross-country program that barely merited using a mini bus for trips. Today he needs a full-size bus to take his team of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to meets.

"We have grown tremendously," he said. "This year we had 25 out, and I think next year we'll have more."

The Bulldogs completed their five-meet season Saturday in Aspen. The girls team won the meet, and the boys finished second. At the other middle school meets this year, the top four runners accounted for the team score. In Aspen, the first three runners counted and Morris said his boys would have won if the fourth runner had been included.

The coach said he was greatly impressed with this year's squad and is looking forward to next year.

"I send two or three guys and girls up to the high school level who could help the team next year," he said. "Then I have a strong group of sixth-grade girls moving up and seventh-grade boys."

The success of the high school program, both boys and girls teams are ranked in the top 10 in Class 4A, is something that helps to encourage students to join.

"They want to be state champs when they start running in sixth grade," Morris said. "We try to stay and watch the high school team when we can."

The CMS team ran at three of the same meets as the high school.

Having a successful program at the next level isn't the only recruiting tool.

"I have runners who know about the program because of their siblings," the coach said. "Some come out because they want something to do and they know that football or volleyball aren't their thing."

Middle school cross country is gaining numbers in Colorado, Morris said. He hopes to increase the number of runners at next year's home meet.

"I have promises from several new teams," he said.

Because cross country may be an athlete's first experience at competitive running, Morris said he wants to ensure they have fun.

"We do a lot of games that involve running," he said. "If I just sent them out on runs I would lose them on the first day."

One other rule is that runners don't walk in meets.

"I've never had one walk," he said. "That shows some discipline for sixth graders."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or at dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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