Colorado Track XC Athletes of the Week: September 22 - 28

<h2 style="text-align: center;"> Honoring outstanding efforts of the 2013 season...</h2>

Jake Erickson and Lauren Gregory earned athlete of the week honors with big wins at two of Colorado's most competitive invitationals this past weekend. Photos by Michele Bisbee and Alan Versaw.

When asked about how it feels to be one of the fastest girls running in the state right now, Lauren Gregory is at a loss for words.  “This is all just weird,” she said, “I don’t even know where this comes from.”
If you haven’t heard her name by now, it’s time to bring you up to speed on Colorado’s newest talent. Lauren Gregory is a freshman, just starting her running career at Fort Collins High School. Only four races into the season, Gregory has made a serious impact on the running scene. Just this past weekend at the TCA Titan Thunder Invitational, Gregory dominated some difficult competition, running away with a win and a new PR of 17:45.  She is a phenomenal talent, a great competitor, and Colorado Track XC’s female athlete of the week.  
“I heard it was going to be a fast course,” said Gregory of her race this weekend, “but I didn’t realize how fast it was actually going to be. I saw Katie Rainsberger go and thought I’d try to stick with her and see where it got me.”
Katie Rainsberger is another superb Colorado talent who happened to be on the same starting line as Gregory this weekend. Gregory gives Rainsberger a lot of credit for her success. “I could have never done it alone,” continued Gregory. “I had never felt that good before and, without Katie helping me, I would have never been able to run that time. It’s really nice to have competition. Colorado is such a fast state.”
And now Gregory herself joins the list of contributors to Colorado’s speedy reputation.  
Transitioning from middle school to high school cross country is no easy feat, but Gregory appears to be having no issues so far.  “I had no idea what to expect,” said Gregory who won the Middle School Cross Country Championships last year. “I came in clueless but I have learned as the races have gone on. I honestly thought I would be number two or something on the team. I didn’t expect it to be like this. But after the first meet it all came into perspective, like this is going to be crazy.”
The reality is that Gregory is now one of the best high school runners in the state and the leader for the Fort Collins cross country team, a highly esteemed position that cannot be taken lightly. The Fort Collins female harriers are one of the fastest teams in the state, and in the nation, having made six consecutive appearances at Nike Cross Nationals. “It is so cool to be a part of that Fort Collins tradition of cross country,” said Gregory. “Year after year they represent so well.”
After a big victory at the Titan Invitational, nationals is once again at the forefront of Fort Collins’ goals this season and something Gregory is hoping to experience for herself soon.  “Nationals is a goal for the whole team,” explained Gregory. “We have lots of seniors who want to go one last time and obviously I want to go, too.”  
But right now, nationals is far off in the distance. Gregory is focused on what’s coming up next and the goals are simple: faster times, some more wins, and, most importantly, more fun.  “This whole thing is a blast,” said Gregory. “Every meet is so fun and so cool. I hope the rest of my high school years are like this.” 
For the boys, Colorado Track XC honors Palisade's Jake Erickson as athlete of the week.  
The junior won the Anna Banana Wildcat Memorial Invitational race on Saturday in 15:48.2.  
“The combination of dirt and sidewalk was fast, and I felt really strong,” said Erickson. “After a false start, the second start ended up playing to my advantage, and I got out faster than before.  My whole strategy was to get out as hard as I could and lose the competition through the second mile.”
And that’s exactly what Erickson did. “I’m feeling really happy with myself that I was finally able to break into the 15s,” said Erickson. “It’s really encouraging and gives me a lot of confidence.”
This season has been an exciting change for Erikson. During his freshmen and sophomore years, Erikson attended Simla High School but, because they had no cross country team, he competed for Peyton High School. There, he finished as runner up in the 2A State Cross Country Championships. 
But after a family move this summer, Erikson is now attending and running in the 4A division for Palisade High School.  
“It’s been great so far,” said Erikson. “I’m really glad to be higher up in competition- it’s going to make me better as a runner. Last year I was always going to eastern meets where there wasn’t as great competition. I was always running by myself and couldn’t run as fast as I wanted to.”
Now running with a faster field, Erikson is able to push his limits and test his fitness. So far his season has been a big confidence booster for him, and his time this weekend puts him up at the top with some of the best in the state.  
But when talking to Erikson, he is calm and collected when it comes to his newfound success in this new division of competition. “I try not to get caught up in the nerves of it all,” said Erikson.  “I stay relaxed and when I go to the start of a race I just focus and give it my best.  If I perform well that’s great but if I don’t, well I don’t beat myself up about it.”
No doubt, that relaxed yet focused attitude will serve Erikson in the weeks to come.  Currently, the top priority on Erikson’s mind is to “continue to improve bit by bit” in the next races, lowering his time even more. But he is prepared for whatever challenges may come his way. “I’m excited to see what happens,” he said.  
Best wishes to Gregory and Erikson as they continue on with what’s shaping up to be very successful cross country seasons for the both of them.  Stay focused, stay healthy and keep having fun!