“I saw the racer coming to the jump, staring with fiery eyeballs as he rushed, I heard the blood within his body thump … I beheld his soul kindle, because in front, he saw the Straight with all its thousand roaring at the goal, he laughed, he took the moment for his mate.” John Masefield, The Racer, 1923.
It’s not an easy sport.
You race alone.
No one to take the race over for you. No one to lean on when you’re tired. No one to pass the race onto.
There is one runner. The sight of others, the noise of their feet pounding, their deep breathing, coming from behind, racing ahead, that is the incentive. Watching, waiting, for the chance to break for the lead, and occasionally, laughing when the chance appears. The joy of the run, the thrill of the race.
For the Pirate cross country team, nowhere is the joy of the race so intense than on their home course on Reservoir Hill, one of the toughest courses in the state.
Both the girls’ and the boys’ teams took first place on that course Saturday.
For junior Emily Bryant, she in particular seized the moment. She took the lead quickly and didn’t let anyone come close for the entire race. Not only did Bryant take first place, but her time of 20 minutes, 5 seconds was only five seconds off the girls’ cross country course record set three years ago.
“She was running out there by herself,” coach Scott Anderson said. He explained that he had a hunch things would turn out the way they did, so before Bryant took off, he told her, “Get out there and enjoy it. How many times do you get to run in the woods by yourself?”
However, it was freshman Olivia Reinhart who had a wonderful, almost surprisingly good race, taking second behind Bryant with a time of 23:23.
“I hope Olivia is starting to realize her potential and break out of her shy freshman shell,” Anderson said, adding, “She had a really good day.”
Freshman Taylor Lee-Hammer finished ninth at 25:03.
Sophomore Devon Jurcak finished fourth with a 26:25. “She had a good day. It was the first time she scored points in a varsity race,” Anderson said.
For the Pagosa Springs cross country boys, there was no individual first-place win as there was with the girls. But, for the boys, as Anderson put it, the big thing that came from the meet was, “the pack is back.” The pack, several runners running in close proximity, is what brought home first place in the team standings for the Pirates during their homecoming run.
“This is the closest they’ve run together as a group this year, and they were able to move forward as a group,” Anderson said.
Senior Daniel Sloan was the first Pirate to cross the finish line, taking fourth place with a time of 20 minutes flat.
“Dan had a solid race,” Anderson said. Next, freshman Nick Hutcherson was the second Pirate to cross the line, one spot behind Sloan, earning a sixth-place spot with a 20:03.
“His head was in the game,” Anderson said of Hutcherson, but continued, “He has huge potential, and he’s just now figuring out what that is.”
For now, Hutcherson appears comfortable running with the group. Whether or not he breaks away this season, only time will tell.
The next Pirate was close behind, in eighth place. Junior Tyler Greenly ran a 20:13. Junior Mason Chronowski was right behind Greenly, taking ninth place with a 20:20.
“He didn’t fold, he didn’t give up,” Anderson said.
From Sloan to Chronowski, there was a gap of only 20 seconds.
“Almost any one of these guys could lead the pack,” Anderson said, which is a benefit for the overall team.
Overall, Anderson said it was a good day for both the boys and the girls, and he deemed the meet a good confidence booster heading into their next race, at Mancos.
The Mancos course, after the home course up and down Reservoir Hill, is a treat for the kids. A nice run through the beautiful woods.
“It’s a lower key meet,” Anderson said, so the runners will be able to work on strategy and technique. The boys will continue to work on their pack time. The girls will work on some of the finer technical points.
The meet will be held Saturday morning in Mancos.