The Pagosa Springs Pirate cross country team kicked it into high gear last Friday at Durango’s Ron Keller Invitational.
Racing against opponents from schools across the Four Corners region, battling wind, rain and fluctuating temperatures, the Pirates placed well at the meet, topping their Colorado opponents.
Due to the weather, the regular course on the golf course was abandoned. The Durango coach had to think fast, so he improvised a course — a fast course, a course on which 24 out of 27 Pirates ran their personal best.
N. Scott Momaday’s “House Made of Dawn” closes with the main character, Abel, running. Running in the cold, running in the rain. “He was running, and his body cracked open with pain, and he was running on.” Like Abel, members of the Pirate team ran on. With the cold, with the wet, on the new course, and whatever pain there was, they ran past it.
Momaday continues Abel’s run, and the fans and spectators of the running Pirates glimpse the whole body and mind experience that running is: “All of his being was concentrated in the sheer motion of running on, and he was past caring about pain. Pure exhaustion laid hold of his mind, and he could see without being able to think.”
And that is the place the members of the Pagosa Springs cross country team came to at last Friday’s meet — not as much about beating the opponent, as pushing themselves, as individuals and team, to the limit.
“It was a good, strong meet,” coach Scott Anderson said. “Our runners packed well, lots of Pirate black and gold toward the front.”
The Pagosa varsity boys took third place, accomplishing last week’s goal: beat Durango, if possible, and beat Telluride, too. This was the first time ever that Pagosa has placed in front of Durango in cross country. The boys also placed above Telluride in the standings.
Both Telluride and Durango have raced against teams in Pagosa’s region and won. Coach Anderson feels that a win against both is a good sign for region placement.
The girls took fourth place, beating Bayfield, who they had lost to at the last meet.
But beating Bayfield wasn’t the real feat at the Ron Keller Invitational. Again, the runners ran more against themselves than opponents.
In the 12 years that Anderson has been coaching Pagosa cross country, there have been only three girls to run under 20 minutes.
“Twenty minutes for a 5k is a benchmark for high school girls,” Anderson said.
At the Durango meet, two girls, sophomores Emily Bryant and Dana Danielson, ran under 20 minutes — Bryant placing seventh, at 19 minutes and 38 seconds, Danielson taking 10th, at 19:51.
Senior Brooke Hampton was close behind with a time of 20:36.
The boys had their top six runners run in the 17-minute range, three of whom are known as the team’s “super sophomores” — Mason Chronowski, 17:36, Tyler Greenly, 17:39, and Zach Ellis, 17:58.
However, it is difficult to keep such speed in coming into what Anderson calls the “mid-season lull.” The biggest challenge is keeping the runners focused and motivated since, usually, the competition is not particularly strong.
The next meet is this Saturday, at home, and the Pirates are looking to run to the head of the pack and stay there. The race begins at 10 a.m. Saturday in Town Park and finishes at the top of Reservoir Hill. The course, Anderson explains, is not a fast course, but a strength course — meaning he doesn’t anticipate lots of personal records to be set.
The goal for the boys’ team: finish with a perfect score, runners taking first, second, third and fourth. For the girls, the goal is winning as a team.
“Main focus on both sides is to maintain focus, stay strong, avoid injury and minimize sickness,” Anderson said. A big focus, though, will be closing the gap between their third- and fourth-place runners.