A happy (and triumphant) Mountain Vista girls team poses with the first-place hardware from the Air Academy Kadet Invitational.
Story by Dan Geisler, Mountain Vista HS Press Liaison
Editor's note: Although this is outside of the usual range of coverage of Colorado Track XC, I'm happy to include this article in that it is consistent with the mission of Colorado Track XC. Moreover, the article came to me well-written and nicely introduces one of the rising cross country programs in Colorado.
Mountain Vista High School's Cross Country team is climbing in the rankings and promises to become a force to be reckoned with, this year and in years to come.
2009's first four meets have seen the boys' team place first in the Renaissance Run (Larkspur), and the boys' and girls' teams sweep 1st place at the Air Academy Kadet Invitational (Colorado Springs).
Headed by Jonathan Dalby and Eric Selle and assisted by Maria Cox, Vista's coaching staff has made great strides toward developing a lasting, high quality cross country program, emphasizing each team member's contribution to the team as a whole.
Says Dalby of the team, which he refers to as “the family,” “These kids are amazing. Last winter they finally started viewing themselves not so much as a group of individual runners, but more as a family of distance runners at Vista. Over the course of the last nine months, the kids have done a really nice job of coming together as a team. Most of the time you can't separate them! For our crew this is a lot more than being just about running. We have a goal as a team to qualify both the boys and girls for the state meet this year. The kids are starting to realize that it takes all 60 athletes in the family being on board with the team goal to achieve it, not just our top seven.”
Ranking high among of the many factors contributing to Vista's rising visibility is summer conditioning. Increased 2009 participation (35 runners showed up on most days in 2009, compared with around seven runners in 2008 and two runners in 2007) in this optional, five mornings per week, 10-week long program. The investment of effort is paying big dividends in the early part of the season, both on individual and team levels. The coaching staff recognizes and appreciates the importance that the program has played in the early success of this team, “Finally getting a lot of kids out for the summer was big for us... I'm really proud of these kids and the sacrifices they have made for each other. If the youngsters keep it up during the summers, and track conditioning during the winters, the team could be pretty special in the future,” Dalby says.
Competition from local teams provides further motivation for improvement among Mountain Vista's runners and coaches alike. Dalby encourages athletes to become “students of the sport,” and leads by example.
“We have been lucky enough to be within 2 miles of 3 other successful High School Cross Country programs that have set the bar high for us. Highlands Ranch HS, ThunderRidge, and Rock Canyon have all had some pretty talented teams over the past 3 years. This is a credit to their coaching staffs: Katie Clifford at Ranch, Matt Paisley at Thunder Ridge, and Dan Davies at Rock Canyon all do great jobs leading their teams. We are also pretty lucky ourselves to have Eric Selle and Maria Cox on staff! They get more out of our kids than the kids think they are capable of!”