After departure of pivotal seniors, Summit High School cross-country looks to talented youths
DILLON — Though the cross-country season will be different due to novel coronavirus regulations instituted by the state high school sports governing body, the Summit High School cross-country team expects another competitive season thanks to a deep squad.
A year after state-championship-level senior runners Max Bonenberger, Grace Staberg and Jeremiah Vaille led the Tigers to new heights in 2019, head coach Heather Quarantillo has an experienced, deep and fast stable of runners again this season.
Without that departed trio in the fold, senior Sam Burke of Dillon and Alice Wescott of Silverthorne are poised to be the vocal senior leaders of the 2020 Tigers. Burke last season was a part of the Summit boys side that qualified as a team to the Colorado High School Activities Association State Championship meet in Colorado Springs. At that meet, the Tigers ran to a seventh-place finish in the 20-school, Class 4A race with Burke running to the fifth-fastest Tigers time at 17:58.0 and 80th place overall. He said this season he’d like to run in the low 16 minutes for 5,000 meters.
“We have a really young team, which will be interesting to watch them grow throughout their careers,” Burke said. “And it would be cool to take the momentum of state placement as a boys team and do as well as we can this year in that respect.”
The good news for Burke is he’s one of four returning Tigers runners who have state-championship experience, including Burke’s fellow senior leader in Tigers wrestling star Gio Marquez (94th at state, 18:14.8). Along with Burke and Marquez’s proven mettle, it’s the growth of rising sophomores Dom Remeikis and Zach McBride that has the Tigers boys feeling like they could contend for another team state-championship berth this season even if fewer teams and individuals will be able to qualify for the state meet due to COVID-19 rules.
“Dom is coming in ranked as the top sophomore in the state across all the categories,” Quarantillo said. “Zach McBride has been running so well all summer. He’s been in all the virtual races Breckenridge and Frisco put on. He just won the Run the Rockies 10K last weekend. Those guys are stepping right up to the starting line.”
Remeikis made a statement to the Colorado running community last fall, when he finished 23rd at the state meet as the Tigers’ second-fastest runner, his time of 16:53.3 only behind Vaille’s 16:30.5. Remeikis for the third summer in a row attended the Team Prep USA three-week sleepover distance running camp in Gunnison. At the camp, which included runners from all 50 states including some of the best in Colorado, he focused on his hip, core and hamstring strength. He hopes improvement in those ways, especially with hip strength, will make him a more efficient runner with improved form. After running a 16:10 last season, he’d like to approach and maybe even best 15:30.
“I think that would rank me definitely top 20 and probably a little bit higher than that,” Remeikis said.
Aug. 21: Warrior Dash Invitational, Grand Junction
Aug. 29: Basalt Invitational, Crown Mountain Park, El Jebel*
Sept. 5: Battle Mountain Invitational, Maloit Park, Minturn
Sept. 5: West Grand Invitational (Junior Varsity), Kremmling*
Sept. 12: Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, Norris Penrose Events Center, Colorado Springs*
Sept. 12: Glenwood Invitational (Junior Varsity), Glenwood*
Sept. 19: Eagle Valley Invitational, Gypsum Creek Golf Course, Gypsum
Sept. 26: Salida Invitational, Salida*
Sept. 26: Middle Park Invitational (Junior Varsity), Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby*
Oct. 7: Rifle Invitational (Junior Varsity), Rifle Golf Course, Rifle*
Oct. 8: Region 1 Cross Country Championships, Gypsum Creek Golf Course, Gypsum
Oct. 17: Colorado State Championships, Norris Penrose Events Center, Colorado Springs
Remeikis said McBride has “really” stepped up his training this year and said Burke “knows how to race” in part due to his high-level ski mountaineering background.
On the girls side, Wescott and fellow senior Nika Dassatti are two runners Quarantillo expects to contribute top times for the Tigers. After a solid freshman season, rising sophomore Logan Reid also figures to be in the mix as one of Summit’s top girls runners, along with senior Sadie Schroder and sophomore Paige Wescott. Alice Wescott also said to expect fast times for freshmen Adeline Avery and Sage Hanks.
Alice Wescott said through the summer, the Tigers girls have focused a lot on speed work as well as increasing their overall mileage, from 35-40 miles last year to more than 50 this summer. She hopes both focus points will improve the team’s overall caliber of running. She hopes to run below 19:30 this season after running just over 20 minutes last year.
“Losing Grace, that’s a big loss for our girls team,” Alice Wescott said. “But I know Nika, Paige and I and all the other girls on the team have been training super hard over the summer. I think as a team, even without Grace, we can progress.”
Quarantillo said rule changes this year for the virus include no more than 50 runners of each gender at a race on a given day. She said that equates to seven teams of seven, so seven boys or seven girls from each school. As a result, the Tigers will only be traveling with 14 runners to each meet. With that, Quarantillo is looking for other opportunities for JV races.
At races, 25 runners will be permitted on a start line at once, the other 25 runners toeing and departing the start line in a second wave three minutes later.
The Tigers intend to begin their race season Friday, Aug. 21, at the Warrior Invitational hosted by Central High School in Grand Junction. That will be one of seven regular-season meets they run in this season, two fewer than traditional seasons, before the regional meet hosted by Eagle Valley High School at Gypsum Creek Golf Course on Oct. 10 and the CHSAA state championship at Norris Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs on Oct. 17.
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