No pain, big gain
Boys cross-county team has top-five potential, if it stays healthy
There is no pain. There is no pain. There is no pain.
That could very well run through Moffat County junior Jeremy Bird’s head at cross-country practice these days.
“It doesn’t hurt that bad anymore,” he said. “I can’t think about it, though, because if I don’t think about it, it doesn’t hurt.”
The “it” is his hip. After finishing 31st at the state cross-country meet, Bird had high hopes for his track season last year. Then he missed the end of track because of a bum hip. It was still a bit of a problem at the start of this cross-country season, but Bird knows it can’t be a problem if his team is to improve from its seventh-place finish at state last year.
Bird and fellow junior Jake Miller are the team’s top returnees. Although Miller was the team’s fourth guy at state, his state-qualifying performance in the two mile in track showed he was capable of being up there with Bird. Sophomore Mike McNicol was the team’s third finisher at state cross country last year, and he is capable of being up in the top three with the juniors again.
“We have a quality top three,” first-year head coach Todd Trapp said. “When you look at how the girls have done when they have three frontrunners, we’ve been successful.”
The girls team has finished in second place at state three of the past four years and all three times they had a trio of girls toward the front.
The Bulldogs’ pack mentality last year helped them win a regional title but, when it came to state, the lack of a frontrunner hurt them. They don’t want that to be the case this year.
“We want to be in the top 10,” Bird said for himself and Miller.
“I just need to stop choking at state,” Miller added.
Trapp, who was the assistant coach the past three years, recognized that his guys were gunning for some high finishes this year. That’s why he increased the mileage and workout volume this season.
“We’ve been a young team in the past, but now we’re not,” he said. “As you get older, your mileage should increase, and the guys are capable of that.”
The Bulldogs graduated just one senior from last year’s team. This year’s senior runners, Ricardo Pinedo and Lincoln Cleverly, have been varsity runners for three years. While injuries have set them both back in their careers, they are still capable of making the Runnin’ Bulldogs a factor in the state.
“We don’t have a lot of depth, but we have a lot of experience with what we have,” Trapp said. “We just can’t afford an injury in our top five.”
It’s a good thing for the Bulldogs that only the top five runners count because beyond the top five runners, there are three guys with a total of two year’s experience in cross country. Junior Shane Braselton has both those years of experience and after he put in some mileage in the summer, he could be the dark horse for the team.
“I think Shane can help us replace (2005 senior Steve) Crisp,” Miller said.
The other two runners, juniors Jake Breslin and Trenton Duarte, joined cross country for the first time with keeping in shape for wrestling their top priority. There are a couple of other runners rumored to come out, but as of Thursday the team was still eight strong.
With what they’ve got, Bird and Miller think the team can finish in the top three at the state meet. Trapp said he would be “ecstatic” if that were the case and that a top-five finish would be his first goal.
“When’s the last time the boys team finished in the top five?” he asked. “I think it had to be when (former head coach) Dustin (Ence) ran in the 90s, so it would be great to get that tradition going again.”
The steps have been taken to reach those goals it’s just a matter of making sure the runners taking those figurative and literal steps stay healthy. Because in the ‘Bulldogs’ case, a successful 2005 season is all about a balance of hard work and keeping healthy.
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