Moun­tain Vista pac­ing it­self for girls, boys cross-coun­try cham­pi­onships.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle New­man Kyle New­man: 303-954-1773 knew­man@den­ver­ or @KyleNew­manDP

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.”

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