New coach takes over Summit cross-country running program full of talent, potential
Tigers open the season this weekend at Battle Mountain Invitational
The Summit High School cross-country running team is entering a new era this season with first-year head coach Michael Hagen at the helm.
A Breckenridge local, Hagen has stepped into the role of Tigers head coach after coaching Tigers middle school runners for the past three years. Hagen has also coached the Summit Distance Project youth cross-country running camp each year with his wife, Eva, for the past three summers. He also brings experience as a high school varsity head coach from his time at Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs and Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, where he won a Colorado state championship with a boys team that at one point was ranked nationally in the top-10.
Hagen succeeds longtime Tigers head coach Heather Quarantillo, who coached the Tigers boys to a state-championship berth in 2019.
Hagen said he enjoys the scientific aspect of coaching and trying to come up with effective training plans and pace-based workouts for his runners. As for what comprises a strong cross-country running team, Hagen said it has to have a good core and depth of runners. Hagen said in the cross-country community, the saying goes, you “can’t win with one or two low sticks” — a reference to old-school races where numbered ice pop sticks were handed out to each finisher.
“It’s all about the depth of a program, and I think that comes from the commitment of athletes and a coach having a year-round program — or close to year-round,” Hagen said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be running, but it’s important to do sports year-round.”
When the Tigers open their 2021 season Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Battle Mountain Invitational at Maloit Park in Minturn, Hagen will have a top-heavy group of boys and a deep stable of young girl runners. Hagen said consistency of effort is the primary focal point for Tiger runners. He is emphasizing speed work in his coaching sessions to help top runners like juniors Dom Remeikis and Zach McBride run faster at crucial points of 5,000-meter races — namely, the ends of the races.
“I believe in being a speed-based program, though we do a fairly good amount of volume, too,” Hagen said. “There’s a saying I like to use, ‘we move our feet fast every day.’ Even on an easy day, we’ll do sprints, or something. And we don’t do a lot of long easy runs — or even easy runs. Every single day, we do something fast with top-end speed, so racing pace becomes comfortable for them.”
McBride said Wednesday’s practice at the Frisco Peninsula was a good example of what Hagen brings to the table, as the team followed up 1,000-meter repeat runs with 200-, 300- and 400-meter sprints.
Remeikis and McBride are the veteran leaders on a boys team without a senior. Hagen said the longtime running buddies are now at the core of the program after showcasing consistency for years.
Remeikis said Hagen has put a lot of work into improving the junior runner, who last spring was a mainstay at the top of track-and-field distance races. Remeikis said through summer runs, he built a good base of long endurance and is now focused on racing faster. Remeikis said he’d like to race sub 15 minutes and 45 seconds.
Aug. 28: Battle Mountain Invitational, Maloit Park, Minturn
Sept. 3: Cheyenne Mountain Invitational, Norris Penrose Event Center, Colorado Springs
Sept. 11: Liberty Bell, Heritage High School, Littleton
Sept. 17: Arvada West Invitational, Stenger Soccer Complex, Arvada
Sept. 24: Dave Sanders Invitational, Clement Park, Columbine High School, Littleton
Oct 2.: Copper Mountain Invitational, Copper Mountain
Oct. 8: Pat Amato Classic, Northwest Open Space, Northglenn High School
Oct. 13: Rifle Invitational, Rifle High School, Rifle
Oct. 21-23: Regional Meet, Evergreen High School, Evergreen
Oct. 30: Colorado High School Athletics and Activities Association State Meet, Norris Penrose Event Center, Colorado Springs
McBride wants to qualify for the Oct. 30 state meet as an individual. He thinks his goal of breaking 16 minutes for the 5K race can get him there, though it’s going to take improving his final mile pace.
“Not fading off,” McBride said. “Staying with that pace and trying to close faster.”
Remeikis and McBride will be joined by fellow junior Landon Cunningham as the top-3 runners. Hagen said Cunningham showed increased commitment this summer and is ready to make the jump to be a top contributor. Then there’s freshman Joshua Shriver, who Hagen said should be ready to contribute right away at Saturday’s meet.
On the girls side, the coach’s daughter Ella Hagen may be the team’s fastest runner in her first high school races. Coach Hagen said Ella is looking to run under 19 minutes for the 5K race and push into the low 18-minute-range, maybe faster.
Coach Hagen said his daughter has been driven to run as fast as she can since her older brother Luc, a member of a national championship running team at Colorado School of Mines, took up the sport.
“She is very serious,” Mike Hagen said. “She’s very focused and works hard — sometimes too hard. She’s always asking, ‘is that enough?’ And I’m like, ‘yes, that’s enough.’”
Other top Tigers girls will be junior Logan Reid — the top returner from last year — and sophomore Adaline Avery, who missed last season with an injury.
“The goal is for both teams to qualify to state, but it’ll be a challenge,” Hagen said. “The boys have good shot at it. And I think the girls can do it, but they’ll have to work hard and have things fall our way.”
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