Tight-knit Summit cross-country team sets sights on another trip to State | SummitDaily.com

Tight-knit Summit cross-country team sets sights on another trip to State

2015 Tigers XC schedule

Sept. 19 — Eagle Valley Invite, Gypsum Creek Golf Course in Gypsum

Sept. 22 — Runners Roost Invite, Dekoevend Park in Littleton

Sept. 26 — Fruita Monument meet, Connected Lakes in Grand Junction

Oct. 10 — Aspen Invite, Aspen High School

Oct. 15 — Rifle meet, Rifle High School

TBD — Western Slope Regionals, TBD

Oct. 31 — State cross-country meet, Penrose near Pueblo

There’s an odd dynamic at play on the 2015 Tigers cross-country team.

For starters, the team is noticeably smaller than it has been in several years, led by a handful of dedicated seniors and one or two all-star underclassmen. Mental grit is paramount at practice and on the course, when competitors rub knees and elbows with upwards of 300 fellow runners. The Summit High School team has fewer than 30 people between girls and boys, easily half the size of a powerhouse team like Battle Mountain.

“It’s an individual sport, and I like that you don’t have to rely totally on a team,” said McKenna Ramsay, a four-year XC runner who placed in the top-25 at the first three meets of the 2015 season. “It’s also a mental thing, because you have to push yourself mentally and physically.”

That leads to the next oddity: Like Ramsay, just about every Summit runner enjoys the solo side of competition, but just about every runner also understands that placing well in the tough, athletic Western Slope 4A league depends on teamwork.

See, the cross-country team is much different than traditional teams sports like volleyball, football and rugby. Runners don’t depend on “teamwork,” so to speak, and instead rely on finding an individual rhythm that syncs well with their teammates. Cross-country team scores are determined by adding the top-five results at a race, meaning teams like Battle Mountain that regularly place five runners in the top-25 have a stellar chance of blowing away the field.

And that’s why the Tiger’s relatively small team could become a secret weapon in the last half of the season. After three meets, Summit heads to Gypsum Golf Course for the Eagle Valley Invite on Sept. 19. Ramsay and fellow senior superstar, Ruthie Boyd, have competed there each of the past four years and know the course well. It’s flat and fast, which plays to Ramsay’s strengths as a sprinter. She admits that climbing is her weakness, although she continues to improve every summer thanks to the Sumit Trail Running Series in Breckenridge.

“If I knew why I didn’t like it I wouldn’t be so bad at it,” Ramsay said. “It just feels like kind of a mental block. Downhill and uphill are challenging in different ways, but the uphill is more of a mental challenge.”

Along with Ramsay, Boyd is the Tiger’s strongest female runner. She placed in the top-five at the first three meets of the season, and with support from a strong pack — senior Jessica Horii, senior Emily Pappas and sophomore Noelle Resignolo — she’s led the girl’s team to top-five finishes at all three meets. Boyd is already courting colleges and missed practice the week of the Eagle Valley Invite to visit a school in Maine.

Before then, though, there’s work to be done on Colorado courses. Ramsay wants the girl’s team to make a return trip to the State meet on Oct. 31. Last season, the Summit team took 12th overall, but this year, the seniors want to place in the top-10.

“I just want to see everyone improve and really push,” Ramsay said. “I think everyone is improving this season, and it would be cool to have the girls team go back to state.”

Devo on the boy’s team

On the boy’s side, senior captain Alex Mason has similar hopes for his team, which is even younger and more developmental than the girl’s squad.

“I’d like our team to have a very good pack time,” said Mason, who understands just how important teamwork is on the trail. “We need to get the team close together on the course, to really be as good as we can together, not getting split apart.”

But competition is stiff in the stacked Western Slope boy’s field, and Mason has no delusions of a top-10 finish at state. The team most likely won’t qualify, but that hasn’t dulled the captain’s drive — and it begins with personal goals. Both he and fellow senior Alex Lehman share the same goal: Log a sub-18 minute finish.

“That’s just the benchmark of college running,” Mason said. “I’ve been hearing that since I was a freshman — it’s the benchmark that separates the men from the boys.”

Unlike Mason, Lehman is relatively new to the cross-country world. He joined the team as a junior when he stopped playing baseball, and since then, he’s fallen head over heels for the solo and team dynamic of cross-country.

“I figured I’d try it out because it’s only running — it can’t be that hard,” Lehman said. “But it turned out to be way harder than I expected. I wasn’t much of a runner before, but I feel like I grew a ton as a runner. I ended up falling in love with the sport. The team itself has also changed me, helped me as a person.”

On Sept. 19, leaders Mason and Lehman hope to notch season-best finishes on a course they know as well as Ramsay and Boyd. From there, the boy’s duo is looking forward to Regionals at Delta, where both recorded personal records last season.

“I just want to get into the 17-minute range,” Lehman said. “It’s a tough goal, but if I keep pushing hard through the end of the year I can get there.”

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