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Fleet of feet back for Demons

Unlike in some states, high school cross country is a big deal in Colorado. And when it comes to area schools, none’s bigger or better heading into the 2006 season than Glenwood Springs. The Demons currently have 25 runners out with a few more intending to join team workouts next week. That fact makes first-year head coach Mike Schneiter’s job both easier and tougher when it comes to picking out the boys and girls varsity runners.”I think the numbers add some energy to the team. Kids feed off each other, it’s really encouraging,” he said. “I’m kind of getting an idea,” Schneiter said about which runner’s going to go where in Glenwood’s lineup. “But it’s hard for me to say who it’s going to be.” With five returnees back from last season’s Class 4A state-qualifying team, the foundation of the ’06 Demon girls appears to be set.Sisters Katrina and Sharaya Selsor with Amanda Alberico are in line for the No. 1-3 slots on the team, respectively. Katrina, a sophomore, took third place individually for Glenwood’s regional team winners, then followed that up with a 16th-best mark of 20 minutes, 07.1 seconds at the state meet in Colorado Springs.Sharaya, who ran through an injury-plagued sophomore season in ’05, has returned to top form. “(Sharaya) is mostly pain-free,” Schneiter said. “She has some shin splints right now, so we’re trying to keep her (running) off the pavement for now.”Alberico, a two-time state qualifier, is looking to improve on her 14th-place regional time last year. “(She is) dealing with some injuries early on, but I know she’ll be there,” the coach said.Two newcomers – Melissa Buchanan, a sophomore, and freshman Angie Shepard – “have done well in practice,” and are in contention for a varsity spot, Schneiter added.Both have running experience behind them.Buchanan set a new school girls records in the 800 meters this spring, then finished sixth in May’s 4A girls 800 state finals. Shepard registered fast times in 5K community races this summer. On the boys side, senior Ryan Ward is on the verge of a breakout year.”(Ryan’s) worked very hard all summer and he’s in good shape. He is really standing out as a team leader,” Schneiter said. A flock of other runners that include returnees Kellen Fockler, Tony Mattivi, Bryce McDermott, Michael Stueban, Justin Davis and Pierce Littler are in the mix. Freshmen Matt Vernie and Brian Yost give the Demons added depth.Bears look to move up”I think you’re going to see a different Rifle cross country team now,” said new Rifle coach Jerry Shafer.While he’s focusing on increasing both teams’ rosters, Shafer has seen promise in the dozen runners currently involved in pre-season workouts.”The kids have been great so far. I really enjoy working with them. These kids have guts and there’s no quit in them,” he said. “And you need to have guts to be a cross country runner. It takes physical and mental ability.”A factor the Bears share with other area teams is a core of strong girls to draw from.”I think our girls team is going to surprise some people. Last year, they sort of struggled. I think they are going to catch some people off guard,” Shafer explained.The Bears’ lead runner, Elisabeth Strouss, after battling through injuries the past two years, is fully recovered.”I haven’t seen any injuries out of her yet,” Shafer said. “(Elisabeth is) trying to get back to where she was before. She’s looking good in practice. She’s our senior and our leader, so I expect big things out of her.”Rifle has three additional runners with varsity experience back. “Holly Keeper and Maddi Steffan are both working hard,” Shafer said. “And NIcole (Bendetti) can definitely hold her own. So we’re looking pretty good.”The Bears boys, with only five out for the team, are rebuilding. Keenan Ross and Brandon Buhlman return. Newcomers to the squad are freshman Dustin Ross, Keenan’s brother, and Jim Coombs and Warren Smith.Cardinals are small, yet pack a big punchGrand Valley has six only athletes on its 2006 girls and boys teams, but will be a force to contend with at October’s Class 3A regional meet with two state qualifiers on the girls roster.Senior Katie Bryan and Matraisa Beecraft, a sophomore move-in from Coal Ridge High School, give the Cardinals a powerful one-two punch among Western Slope individual runners.”It’s a great advantage for both of them,” said third-year coach Dasa Bryan. “Katie and Matraisa run together real close in practice. Their pace is almost endless.”Senior Maria Lough returns for the girls. The fourth member is first-year competitor Diandra Campbell, a junior. The boys team consists of senior Rex Cameron and Justin Munyer, a junior.New coach likes look of ’06 TitansTiffany Robison, a Glenwood Springs High grad, has taken over as cross country coach at Coal Ridge. And she’s pleased with what she has seen of the young Titans after returning to Colorado after coaching in California.”I was happy with what I saw the first week. These kids are little bit tougher to coach because they are better runners (vs. California),” said Robison. “They are faster, so I have to change things around in their practices and workouts more than what I used to do.” The Titans’ main problem is getting more students out for cross country.Robison currently has seven athletes in training – five boys and two girls. Coal Ridge has a returning state qualifier in sophomore DaLin Murphy and letterman Thomas Simmons to draw on for leadership. The rest of the boys team consists of first-year runners DaNivin Murphy, Michael Pfaff and Brian Bishop. Leah Perry is the only Titans girl back from last year; she will be joined by freshman runner Chelyn McCain.The season gets under way for three area teams Saturday, Sept. 2. Coal Ridge and Glenwood begin the year at the Delta Invitational. Rifle is scheduled to compete at the Joe Vigil Invitational in Alamosa. Grand Valley begins the 2006 campaign a week later in Grand Junction at the Central Warrior Invitational.


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