Titans’ cross country program continues to head in right direction
Head Coach: Chris Oz, third year
Last Season: no runners qualified for the state meet
Key Returners: Boys — Dylan Dunbar, Sr.; Aiden Boyd, Sr.; Josh Lovelace, Sr.; Girls — Sky Riddick, Sr.; Libby Tharp, Jr.
Runners to Watch: Boys — Ethan Poland, So.; Eric Monroy, So.; Girls — Haven Prodzinki, So.; Michelle Marquez, So.; Natalie Smythe, So.
The first two years under the guidance of head coach Chris Oz were about building slowly from the ground up for the Coal Ridge Titans cross country program. With that came some ups and downs, but in Year Three things are looking up for the Titans’ young program.
Back this fall under Oz are three key seniors on the boys team in Dylan Dunbar, Aiden Boyd, and Josh Lovelace, while senior Sky Riddick and junior Libby Tharp return on the girls side to give the Titans experienced varsity runners to lean on early in the season.
While it’s nice to have experience back, the Titans are overly excited about the young runners up and coming under Oz, giving the program some serious skill and depth.
Since I’ve been here, our team has gotten younger and younger and younger,” Oz said. “If we stay with the program and kids show they care about running, and continue to get better and better, we’re really going to build something special here.”
That youth includes sophomores Ethan Poland and Eric Monroy on the boys side, as well as sophomores Haven Prodzinki, Michelle Marquez, and Natalie Smythe on the girls side.
“We’re not going to be necessarily competing for any top sports right now, but from where we have been to where we are now, we’re heading in the right direction for sure,” Oz said. “This year would be our first year in awhile sending a kid to state. That’s what I hope for.”
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Former Rifle Bears standout turned starting running back for Western Colorado University Ty Leyba remembers it like it was yesterday.