Alfredo Lebron, a Moffat County High School senior, leads the way during an MCHS varsity cross-country team practice. Lebron, who placed fourth in last year’s 4A state meet, is the top returning senior boy in 4A this season.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Alfredo Lebron, a Moffat County High School senior, leads the way during an MCHS varsity cross-country team practice. Lebron, who placed fourth in last year’s 4A state meet, is the top returning senior boy in 4A this season.

Alfredo Lebron begins chase for state cross-country title

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Four Moffat County High School cross-country runners practice at MCHS. The boys and girls teams both won the 4A regional meet last season, and with 14 returning runners this season, head coach Todd Trapp said both teams have a good chance to repeat.

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Brenna Ciesco, a Moffat County High School sophomore, placed 34th in last year’s 4A state meet and is the MCHS varsity cross-country team’s top returning girl.

2011 Moffat County High School varsity cross-country schedule:

(Date — place — host/opponent)

• Sept. 2 — away — Arapahoe

• Sept. 3 — away — Pre-state at Cherry Creek

• Sept. 9 — away — Warrior Classic at Central Grand Junction

• Sept. 16 — away — Liberty Bell Invitational

• Sept. 24 — home — Moffat County

• Oct. 1 — away — Pat Patten Invitational

• Oct. 13 — away — Rifle Invitational

• Oct. 19 — away — Regionals at Delta

• Oct. 29 — away — State at Cherry Creek

MCHS varsity cross-country team at a glance:

Coaches:

• Todd Trapp

• Jennifer Pressgrove

Seniors: 8

By the numbers:

10: Head coach Todd Trapp is entering his 10th year as a coach of the MCHS cross-country team. Trapp spent the first two years as an assistant coach and the last eight as head coach.

4: The Bulldogs walked away from the 2010 Regional meet with four first-place finishes. The boys and girls teams both took first while graduated seniors Chris Zirkle and Maddy Jourgensen won their respective races.

2: The team returns two runners who placed in the top 50 of the 2011 state meet at Cherry Creek. Senior Alfredo Lebron took fourth for the boys and sophomore Brenna Ciesco finished 34th for the girls.

Alfredo Lebron said he isn’t cocky or conceded, but the Moffat County High School senior knows what's expected of him this cross-country season.

“I have high expectations,” he said. “I trained all summer as much as I could so I can finish as high ranked as I am supposed to.”

Meeting those expectations will be no easy task, as Lebron is the top returning runner in the state from last year’s 4A state cross-country meet.

Lebron took fourth as a junior with a time of 16 minutes, 27.42 seconds. He finished behind three seniors.

One of the seniors, Chris Zirkle, was Lebron’s teammate and running partner for the year and finished just ahead of him in third place.

This year, with Zirkle graduated, Lebron will have to rely on himself to keep pushing and bring home the gold.

Adjustments

Lebron talked with a sense of understanding recently about the upcoming season and the challenges and opportunities it presents.

“With Chris not here, I know I can run by myself,” he said. “Last year, I would mimic him. If he sped up, so did I. If he slowed down, I would, too.

“I would keep pushing Chris and he kept me going, but this year it is just me.”

Head coach Todd Trapp said losing a training partner is tough and it will take Lebron time to adjust.

“Chris and Alfredo always helped each other and it is going to be tough for Alfredo for about the first month,” Trapp said. “Not only does he have to learn to push himself, he has to learn a whole new race strategy.”

Lebron had a chance to see how life without Zirkle would be in the spring during track season.

Zirkle competed on the MCHS cross-country team but was a Hayden High School student. Since the Tigers had a track team, he stayed at home to compete.

So, during track, Lebron tried different techniques in preparation for his senior year.

“When I am by myself, I am going to go out fast and stay out,” he said. “I did that for track and it seemed to work, so that is what I am going to do on the cross-country course.

“Instead of basing my progress on someone else, I have to base it off my race times and keep improving there.”

Team first

In a sport like cross-country, individual success can lead to team success.

The boys team has won back-to-back regional championships, and with six seniors returning — Lebron, Johnny Landa, Miguel Molina, Rene Molina, Dale Nakai and Wyatt Villa — the team has a great chance at a three-peat, Trapp said.

“The guys know that winning regionals doesn’t just happen, but that you have to work hard,” he said. “There are other good teams out there, but these guys have won two championships and will push for the third.”

But, with a weapon like Lebron, Trapp said the senior’s individual goals could help the team’s overall goal.

“If Alfredo takes first, that is like placing four guys right there,” Trapp said. “With the other seniors we have, if each guy has a good race, the team will have a great finish.”

If anything can make the boys team even more competitive, it would be a counterpart just as dominant.

Enter the MCHS girls cross-country team, which also won the regional meet last year and placed four girls in the top 100 at state.

After losing two seniors, including one — Maddy Jourgensen — who took 11th at the state meet, the girls team may look down on paper, with just one returning senior in Kelly Ciesco.

But, that’s not the way Kelly sees it.

“Being the only returning senior, I have to set a better example for everyone on the team,” she said. “We have a lot of solid runners and I think winning regionals again is a real possibility.”

Minus the two seniors, the girls team retained the other five runners who competed at state last season, including Kelly’s sister, Brenna Ciesco, who placed 34th as a freshman.

Juniors Eryn Leonard, Sassy Murray and Bailey Hellander also return to the team.

At the 2010 state meet, Brenna and Leonard finished less than a minute apart while Murray and Kelly finished within 10 seconds of each other.

“Running with someone during competitions is really important,” Kelly said. “I normally run with Sassy and she is a good runner and she pushes me and I push her so we can both become better runners.”

Nothing less

While both teams may have success this season, there is little doubt opponents will know Lebron when he steps on their course.

“It is kind of cool when people are like, ‘Hey, Alfredo,’ but I’m not the type of person to rub it in,” he said. “I am just there to have my best race and take each competition one race at a time.”

Having competed in the state meet all three years, taking 18th in 2009 and 90th in 2008, Lebron knows the importance of one regular season race in particular — pre-state at Cherry Creek.

“Cherry Creek is the same course we run at state, so getting to run it earlier in the season just lets us know the course that much better,” he said. “Last year, a kid from Glenwood had never ran there before and he wasn’t ready so he didn’t finish as high as he should have.”

Lebron has improved every year he has run in the state meet, and said he doesn’t want his final year to be any different.

“Anything less than a state championship would be disappointing,” he said. “Last year, Chris and I always finished 1-2, but this year I am shooting for No. 1 all season.”

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