Ian McLain and Jeff Switzer were the mainstays of the Estes Park team this past season. Both are back next year. Photos by Alan Versaw.
There is a rich tradition of cross country at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. There are individual state champions, and there is a 1993 boys state championship trophy sitting in the trophy case. And there has to be a fair bit of hoping and dreaming going on over the 2012 season. This is a team that should be believing they can contend for a state title next fall.
The Bobcats finished fifth at the state meet in October and are bringing back the franchise. That compares with sending one individual (who finished 34th) to the state meet in 2009 and a 13th-place team finish in 2010. This is a team on a steady upward trajectory.
Jeff Switzer and Ian McLain represent the front of the pack for Estes Park. Switzer posted four top-five finishes in meets this fall. Ian McLain added five top ten finishes in various meets this fall. The first two finishers aren't adding many points to the team's total. Switzer and McLain are low to mid 17s kind of guys, both with some upside potential
For Estes Park to have a banner kind of season in 2012, however, most the the imrovement will need to come from the #3 and #4 positions. At state this fall, those positions were held down by Russ Hall (17:42 PR) and Kirk McMillan (18:15 PR). Those times will need to come down for Estes Park to hold their own with the Alamosas, Moffat Counties, Peak to Peaks, Universities, and Holy Families of the 3A world. But, Estes Park can take serious encouragement from the fact that Hall dropped about two-and-a-half minutes off his 5K PR in the last year, and McMillan dropped a little better than two-and-a-half minutes. As previously indicated, this is a team with an upward trajectory.
It's too early to tell, but Evan Ginter and Isaac Calden may be bringing in help from the freshman ranks next fall.
Somewhere, you have to believe, the Bobcats will find the pieces to make a legitimate run at the trophy.
The program is in the capable hands of Coach Ruby Bode. The team didn't miss a beat--in fact, it had it's best season in recent memory--in Bode's first year at the helm this fall. And, if you've ever been chasing runners around the same course as Bode, you know she can pick 'em up and put 'em down with almost any coach in the state. Somehow, I doubt there's a lot of opportunity to goof around in the Estes Park practices.
Estes Park competes in the Patriot League, and that can become an issue from time to time. Between Lyons, Brush, University, and a couple of other schools, it can be easy to think you have to go hard every weekend. And that kind of mindset can carry a price tag by the end of the season. Depth isn't yet a major strength for Estes Park, so staying healthy will be critical in 2012.