Twice as blessed: Moffat County, Hayden distance runner Makenna Knez signs with Western Colorado
HAYDEN — For the past four years, Makenna Knez has gotten used to sporting blue and white in the fall and black and orange in the spring. Going forth with college sports, she’ll only be wearing one set of colors, though she counts herself fortunate to have done double duty for two different high school teams.
Makenna signed her letter of intent Thursday afternoon to join the cross country and track and field programs at Western Colorado University.
As one of multiple Yampa Valley athletes to join the Mountaineers in the past month, she chose the Gunnison school for its strong running teams as well as meeting other needs following high school.
“I looked at a couple schools, but Western was the first one that I talked to a rep about,” she said. “I kind of didn’t take it seriously until I toured, and I found it’s a lot like Hayden since it’s smaller, and I think I’ll do better at a smaller school. It’s perfect, it’s just like home.”
With a scholarship in the works, Makenna plans to study elementary education at Western.
Since her freshman year, the Hayden High School senior has run for the Moffat County High School cross country team, making it to the state championships all four years, gaining the top finish for the Bulldog girls in October with 35th.
In the springtime, she competes for Tiger track, primarily distance events, last year qualifying for state in the 1,600-meter run. She’s hoping to have similar results in the upcoming season, already setting a goal for the times she plans to post.
“I really had an awesome cross country season, it was everything I wanted it to be. There was nothing I would have changed,” she said. “For track, I’m really looking forward to a big year. I hope to be in the 5:20’s in my mile.”
Suiting up for the Bulldogs has involved plenty of autumn travel, which she complemented during the past winter running the half-mile and one-mile at February’s Air Force High School Open in Colorado Springs.
The following weekend saw Makenna take third in the 800 and second in the 1,600 at the Western High School Open in Gunnison.
MCHS coaches Todd Trapp and Jennifer Pressgrove dropped by Makenna’s signing.
“There’s always a sense of pride to see your athletes continue running,” Pressgrove said. “Makenna works hard, has a good attitude and is coachable, so she’ll do well and improve a lot.”
Trapp noted that whether she’s running for Bulldogs or Tigers, Makenna has always shown her athleticism in multiple ways.
“Every time we have a kid sign, it’s really cool to see,” Trapp said. “It shows the program in Craig and the program in Hayden are doing good things. Makenna’s made a huge commitment traveling to Craig for us, shows a love for the sport. I think she’ll do really well committing her time with her work ethic.”
While she’s by no means the only Hayden athlete to run for MoCo cross country — fellow Tiger seniors Chris Carrouth and Theo Corrello also ran at XC state, as did top 10 finisher Wyatt Mortenson and Makenna’s younger brother, Keaton — the experience of being part of two teams is one she’s found especially enriching.
“I’ve been super-blessed to be able to go over and run for Moffat County and still compete for Hayden,” she said. “The different levels, 3A and 2A, has kind of opened my eyes to show there’s more than just 2A.
Makenna added that her cross country coaches were a big part of building up her mental toughness and pushing her to boost her limits.
“Coach Trapp and Coach Jen were really regimented, and I really grew as an athlete and changed the way I thought about running. It’s been an awesome experience all four years,” she said.