Overtime

Pressure is on for runners aiming for title

Column by Jim Benton
Posted 10/23/18

High school sports can be beneficial in demonstrating values that athletes can use later in life, like discipline, dedication, teamwork and the ability to handle adversity. However, one of the …

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Overtime

Pressure is on for runners aiming for title

Posted

High school sports can be beneficial in demonstrating values that athletes can use later in life, like discipline, dedication, teamwork and the ability to handle adversity.

However, one of the pitfalls is the pressure to perform that is put on young athletes from a variety of sources, including themselves, coaches, parents and the lure of potential scholarship opportunities.

Basketball players often face stressful situations in a close games by going to the foul line in the waning seconds. In baseball and softball, hitters can feel pressure with two outs and the tying and winning runners on base in the bottom of the seventh.

But what about cross country?

Mountain Vista junior cross country runner Jenna Fitzsimmons is the defending Class 5A state champion and both the Golden Eagles girls and boys won last season’s team championships.

So there has been pressure and expectations on Fitzsimmons all season — and there will be more during the state championship meet on Oct. 27 at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs.

“There definitely can be pressure on a (cross country runner),” Fitzsimmons said. “With all my teammates, we’ve had some races where we all get super nervous. Our goal is to loosen each other up and try to take the pressure off each other before a race.

“There can be pressure, but I just try to go and have some fun with more focus on what we are doing as a team and then the individual goals will come along if we are focusing on that team goal.”

Fitzsimmons, who was fifth at the state meet as a freshman, had the fastest time recorded in the five 5A regional meets with a 17:52.00 in winning the Region 2 event at Aurora Sports Park on Oct. 18. Mountain Vista’s girls head into the state meet as one of the favorites after capturing the regional meet, with the five girls that scored finishing among the top eight runners.  The Golden Eagles actually had seven runners in the top 10 in a dominating performance. 

The top four teams in 5A and all athletes who  finish in the top 15 at the regionals qualify for the state meet.

Cherokee Trail, Cherry Creek, Fossil Ridge, Broomfield and Monarch will be the top challengers the Vista girls in the race for the 2018 state 5A  team championship.

Fitzsimmons will be pushed by other regional winners, including Riley Stewart of Cherry Creek,  Kiran Green of Brighton and Broomfield’s Sydney Swanker.

The Norris Penrose course is regarded as one of the state’s more difficult courses.

“It’s a very different course,” said Fitzsimmons.  “There’s a lot more dirt and there are some different hills. But I feel that every course is what you make of it and that one is pretty fun. This will be my third year of running on it and I’m excited to be back on it.”

Dakota Ridge is the favorite and could be feeling pressure in the 5A boys team competition. The Eagles were 24 points better than second-place Mountain Vista in winning the Region 2 meet on Oct. 18.

Valor Christian junior Cole Sprout, the defending 4A state champion, will draw most of the attention as one of the top runners this season in 5A, but he will be challenged for the state title by Dakota Ridge’s Austin Vancil. Sprout won the regional title with a time of 15:16.00, with Vancil right behind in 15:24.00.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.

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