I found some gems when chatting with Laramie County’s cross-country community in the afterglow of Saturday’s state meet.
Pine Bluffs-Burns won its fifth straight state Class 2A girls championship. I did not see that coming at all. Last year’s third-place individual, Austin Asay, graduated, and two other expected returners didn’t come out for the team. So I figured they’d finish in position to come away with some hardware and a couple of all-state runners. Well, I suppose they did that.
And as with all dynasties (hey, this is five in a row, we’re well within our rights to use the “D” word), when athletes leave the program, more athletes come along to fill in. Freshman Emily Keiter finished 10th and earned all-state while junior Becca Smith and senior Madison Heithoff played roles in taking some places from the other squads. Freshman Sarah Love also finished mid-pack, and all those girls brought home gold medals of their own to go with the first-place trophy.
Sophomore Kelsey Faircloth finished ninth and junior Matison Mikesell finished fifth. There are your all-staters. So now we have two whole generations of Pine-Burns runners knowing nothing but state championships. If the makeup of this squad stays in tact, coaches Cole Manlove and Dustin Lee could bring home a couple more trophies.
But don’t talk about expectations with these guys. Lee said he has but one expectation of his runners in the offseason.
“Our expectation is to get a new pair of shoes and get the miles in,” he said. “We’ll get together in another week with everybody, celebrate the season with a dinner and awards.
“We’ve got all our girls coming back minus one and all our boys coming back. We’ll continue working hard in the offseason, especially in the summertime with all those miles, and then get going again.
Lee’s a huge Kansas City Royals fan so you can bet he’s in his glory right now.
When he talked with me Saturday, he said he had World Series Game 4 in one ear, his phone in the other. And he really only wanted one quote in the paper (though I ended up cajoling him into an extended chat):
Royals win World Series + Pine-Burns state championship = best week ever?
Cheyenne Central’s girls finished third – five points behind winner Gillette and four points behind runner-up Rock Springs. For the uninitiated, cross-country is scored by adding together the places of each of the top five runners (top four in Class 2A) for a school. So, like golf, low score wins. Central’s girls were a matter of each of their scoring runners moving up one spot away from winning a state championship.
In his demeanor, first-year coach Sean Wilde clearly expected the girls to win. But he said he was happy with how they did, including three all-staters in senior Madison Yager and freshmen Aubrey Frentheway and Faith Meredith.
As with Pine-Burns, the future is bright at Central – both on the boys and girls sides. Frentheway and Meredith lead a big and talented freshman class among girls (only Yager graduates, and her leadership will be tough to replace), and the boys finished fourth with two seniors among the scoring seven. So look for Central to continue its spot in the upper echelon of the state’s running teams.
Yager wants to study zoology in college and possibly run cross-country . She recently visited the University of Wyoming and would like nothing better than to wear the brown and gold. She finished 43rd at state as a freshman and thought her running would never get to this point – a sixth-place finish, all-state honors and the opportunity to run in college.
Not bad for originally following a crush on a boy into the sport.
“He was in a couple of my classes and said, “You should do cross-country,’ so I said ‘Sure!’ But he ended up playing football and I ended up staying with (cross-country). So it worked out well.”
Lesson: Love fades, but running remains. Er, something like that.
Now Wilde gets to pay up on a bet.
Last year’s St. Vrain Invitational track meet in Longmont, Colorado, had an elite mile for post-college runners. Wilde looked on somewhat longingly, and Central runner Elliott Miller challenged him to run that mile a year hence.
“We’re watching the elite mile, and those post-collegiate guys were running about the same time I was running the year previously. Elliott said ‘You should be out there. Run it next year.’ So I told him ‘If you get top five at state (cross-country I will run it.’ That was his rallying cry.”
Indeed, Miller finished fifth Saturday and Wilde, who ran at the University of Wyoming, will start plotting his training soon. The prestigious Simplot Games indoor track and field meet in Pocatello, Idaho, has a coaches’ mile, which will serve as Wilde’s tuneup for the April meet in Colorado. Good luck, coach.
Cheyenne South made some strides as well, fielding full boys and girls teams for the first time in school history. The girls finished ninth and the boys 11th.
Junior Ana Sanchez placed 13th to lead the girls team, and senior Clay Johnson (who finished last in 2013) took third. But coach Scott Foley was over the moon with his girls team’s top-10 finish. He sent me an email on his way back from Sheridan:
“The girls team knew, being their first year at the state meet, that no one really expected anything from them. They were not content with just being at the state meet. They went there to compete and compete hard. Getting into the top 10 was a big goal of ours and we were happy to have reached that goal.”