Mountain Vista pacing itself for girls, boys cross-country championships.
Entering his 11th season as the head cross country coach at Mountain Vista, Jonathan Dalby says this year’s Golden Eagles are “as motivated of a group as I’ve ever had” — a strong statement when considering the boys’ Class 5A championship streak from 2012-15 as well as the girls’ establishment among the big-school elite.
Driving this year’s motivations is the lingering taste of both team’s runner-up finishes last fall. The boys had their five-peat thwarted by nine points to Monarch, while the girls also fell short by single digits to Broomfield in a bid for their first state title.
“Because of last year, this summer has been more about trying to hold them back so they don’t push harder than they need to go right now, because they’re pretty ambitious,” Dalby said. “The boys have a bit of a chip on their shoulder, and the girls were close last year and they’d love to get one. But as a staff, we’re keeping them focused on the day-today process, knowing that will benefit us at the end of the season.”
As the first day of official practice looms Aug. 14, the Golden Eagle boys return three of their five scorers from last fall’s state meet, with seniors Carter Dillon and Caden Foster highlighting a program that has consistently churned out Division I talent — and is eager to add to that legacy.
“I guess on paper, most people would think that state runner-up is pretty good,” Dillon said. “But a title is something we feel we can accomplish every year, and handling that expectation involved a lot of learning from the guys before us. They passed down a lot of good knowledge, and their experience continues to help us out a lot.”
The girls’ team also continues to ascend, and is likely to again be in a twoteam race for the title with Broomfield come time for the state meet Oct. 28 at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. No other school was within a country mile of challenging either program last year, and this year, each team returns its top five runners.
But rather than focusing on the firepower up in Broomfield, junior Caroline Eck, sophomore Jenna Fitzsimmons and sophomore Sarah O’Sullivan have turned their energy inward. They’re feeding off the championship resume of the boys throughout the team’s early-morning summer workouts that saw the Golden Eagles in action along trails across Douglas County and Jefferson County five to six days a week from early June through early August.
“The cool thing about the Vista program is that we’re really connected, so when someone is working hard it inspires another person to work hard,” Eck said. “It’s a chain reaction each practice, meet and year, and it makes our team so deep to help our success overall.”
And beyond the state’s borders, both Mountain Vista teams seek to make noise on a national stage at the Nike Cross Southwest Regional in November. Finishing in among the top two there qualifies the team for the Nike Cross Nationals, which Vista’s boys and girls teams have each done once before. The boys took 11th in 2015, the girls finished 13th last year.
Buoying those lofty national hopes is a daily dedication to running that is seen not only during practice, but in the Golden Eagles’ decisions outside of the sport as well.
“Our success is not so much all about being committed to the summer and to our training as it is being committed to everything that we do,” Dalby said. “As a staff, we talk to them pretty frequently about sleep, nutrition and hydration — the importance of taking care of the little things. What they do the other 22 hours a day makes the biggest difference in how far their training will take them, and how our season will go as a team.”