Runners primed for titles

After four years of running cross country, Steve Crisp's body still welcomes a taper.

"I can wake up this week without hitting snooze three times," he said. "It feels nice to have that energy."

Coach Dustin Ence has noticed the extra energy.

"They've had too much energy at times this week since we've backed off a bit," he said. "We had to sit them down and focus their energy yesterday."

Ence sat his runners down and talked about focusing the energy on both teams winning the regional for the first time in 10 years.

"There's no way we shouldn't win," sophomore Jake Miller said. "If we run any thing like we have this year, we should go out there and win."

Miller's hypothesis is based on sound research.

The Bulldogs have raced against every team in the Class 4A Western Slope this year except Montezuma-Cortez. The closest any team has come was 10 points at a meet last week in Palisade. The Battle Mountain girls had 54 points to Moffat's 44. This week junior Cortney Grandbouche will return to the eighth-ranked girls for the regional. She rested an injury for two weeks, but Ence couldn't keep one of the top-four runners out any longer.

"We could have rested Cortney for another week," Ence said. "But she wanted to go this week and see how she felt."

The seventh-ranked boys team will be without junior Lincoln Cleverly. The perennial fifth or sixth runner for the Bulldogs will rest a stress fracture and return for state.

"I don't think I'll claim myself as a member of the cross country team if we don't qualify (for state)," senior Angela Nelson said.

"It's exciting to get a chance to win again," senior Amelia Parker said.

Mullen was a part of the Western Slope regional the last two years. Last year, their girls and boys won the region.

This year, the Mustangs are back on the Front Range and both Bulldog teams are the favorites.

Neither team has the individual favorites.

Palisade's Glen Randall is the returning Class 4A state champion. He has dominated Western Slope running for three years and is going for his third-consecutive regional title.

Summit's Whitney Anderson came out of nowhere -- she moved from Alaska -- last year in track to win the Class 4A 1,600 and 3,200 titles. She finished second in one of the nation's elite high school cross country meets, the Great American Cross Country Festival, this fall. She could run away with the race like Randall.

Three Bulldogs would like to finish right behind her.

Parker, senior Emily Sperl and Nelson hope for top-five finishes.

The boys don't expect a lot of team competition, but they know there will be some close individual races up front.

"There are some decent individuals on all the teams," Miller said. "We have good competition in the top 10."

Ence said he thought Crisp, Miller, sophomore Jeremy Bird and freshman Mike McNicol could all be in the top 10.

"We don't want to be too big headed going in," Ence said. "But this just happens to be a year where most programs are down a bit and we aren't."

The Delta course is flat and fast, something the Bulldogs have trained for all year.

"It was good for us to run at Palisade last week because it was a similar course," Ence said. "The two weeks before were more challenging courses."

Another aspect the Bulldogs have going for them is experience.

Only two girls, Sperl and freshman Jeacey Robinson, haven't competed in a regional meet. Bird, McNicol and freshman Colton Conrad have never raced in the post season.

"Last year we let a title get away against Mullen," Crisp said. "We don't want that to happen again."

The bid for dual titles begins at 10:30 for the boys and 11:30 for the girls.

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

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