Western Slope runners head to state | PostIndependent.com

Western Slope runners head to state

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

FORT COLLINS, Colorado ” Saturday is the day area high school runners long ago circled on their calendars. They’ve spent their whole season training with this day in mind.

It’s the state cross-country meet, and Garfield County’s schools will be well represented at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins.

Glenwood Springs’ entire girls team qualified for a fourth straight year, joining Ryan Buchanan and Kellen Fockler as the Demon reps.

Rifle’s Holly Keeper is going after finishing eighth at regionals.

Coal Ridge is sending a pair of runners in DaLin Murphy and Chelyn McCain.

And Grand Valley sophomore Brandi Krieg, in just her first year of cross-country, will represent the Cardinals and may very well come away with a high finish in the 3A race. She’ll be joined by boys teammate Austin Germiller.

All have logged the training miles and are now ready to test their mettle on an all-grass course in Fort Collins.

Glenwood Springs coach Mike Schneiter knows his girls runners can put up a better day than they did when placing fourth at regionals in Delta last week.

“The girls know they can run a lot better,” the third-year coach said. “I think that means that it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility for a top-10 finish.”

Melissa Buchanan, Michelle Stripp, Angie Shepard, Marissa Molina, McKenzie Hill and Hope Whitman will join the Demons’ top region finisher, Katrina Selsor, in Fort Collins.

The top five times figure into team scoring at state.

On the boys side, Buchanan, a sophomore, qualified for state for the second time in as many years and Fockler, a senior, gutted his way to Fort Collins with a big run at Delta.

“Kellen’s the prime example of what happens when the kid works really hard in the offseason and makes that commitment because he’s never made it to state before,” Schneiter said. “He had a goal and he wanted to make it. Kellen’s got it in him to have another outstanding race, and I think the two of them (including Ryan) can make the top 50.”

Rifle coach Jerry Shafer says he’s never seen Keeper as determined as she’s been this season.

“Last year, she knew she should have made it to state,” he said. “She just didn’t run a good race (at regionals). She came back so determined. … I’d say she’s more determined than I’ve ever seen her. Nothing was going to stop her.”

That determination got Keeper exactly what she wanted ” a chance to run at the state meet.

Shafer thinks her will, and the heightened competition that the senior runner will see in Fort Collins, may just propel the Bear to a high finish.

“We’re trying to get in the 19s,” Shafer said. “She’s been dropping her times, but every time she’s out there she’s running by herself. Other girls are either way out in front of her or way behind her. She’ll be pushed more than she ever has this season.”

Murphy’s on his fourth state meet in as many years, and he wants to go out with a bang.

“DaLin wants to do pretty well,” Coal Ridge coach Tiffany Robison said. “It’s his last shot, the last race of his high school career. He’s kind of trying to beat his personal best throughout high school.”

He’ll be joined by fellow Titan McCain, who will be racing in her second straight state meet in the 3A girls race.

As a sophomore competing in her first season of cross country, Krieg has been nothing short of spectacular.

Top-five finishes have been the norm for the talented distance runner, who logged state-meet experience (in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs) as a freshman in track and field last spring.

On Saturday, Grand Valley coach Kim Whelan is expecting big things.

“Brandi, as far as the girls go, has an excellent chance of being in the top five,” she said. “If you look at last year’s results ” and it’s always hard to predict finishes ” last year’s winner was 20:03. Brandi has run a 19:30 at a fast course, but all I can really say is she has an excellent chance.”

While Krieg will seek for a top mark in the girls race, Germiller will be doing the same in the boys race. Germiller landed a spot at state with a 13th-place region finish after narrowly missing out on making it last year.

” Austin has come a long way,” Whelan said. “He ran a 17:17 Saturday, which is almost three minutes faster than what he did last year. His improvement has been amazing.”

” Anthony Dion contributed to this report.

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