Weve got two more, says coach Nick Kohler as he resets his stopwatch in the parking lot of Joe Rowell Park last Thursday afternoon. A group of five young runners stand around him red faced and ready for another lap, half of practice still left. One runner has scraped her knee and is paying no attention to it.
This is the first year for Dolores cross-country. The team is lead by Nick Kohler who has coached Dolores track for ten years.
Ive been pushing for a cross country team for some time now, says the coach, its distance that we need.
For years, the springtime track team has received high praise for their regional performance, a formidable presence for a small school that has time and again inspired the press phrase, Who could forget about Dolores?
And yet it has been the distance events where the team has struggled most, distance that Kohler is building with his runners this fall.
They are a small team with a big mix of ages: five from the high school, three from the middle school, eight in total. Despite the wide age gap, the team trains together, Kohler sends the younger kids running one direction on the course and the older in another.Theyre a tight knit crew, especially when sharing a bus with their rival team Mancos on their way to out of town meets.
Middle schooler Cayley Odell recounts this peculiar carpooling situation saying, Were up in the front of the bus laughing and being loud and they just stare at us.
She draws a good laugh out of the rest of the group. Its clear their sense of competition suffers little.
Last Saturday the gravel roads to Chicken Creek were side lined with yellow school buses and parents cars parked two wheels ditched and leaning. Dolores runs in a red jersey. Mixed in with the others, they placed well, rounding the pond on the final bend to the finish and the cheering crowd.
The middle school runners Cayley Odell, Lyndrth Belt, and Breanne Maxwell placed 9th, 24th and 34th of 56 runners in the 1.5 mile race, all of whom improved on their previous times. High schoolers Kayla Charles, Regan Umberger, and Ben Baker placed 2nd, 4th, and 20th in their respective races.
Already in midseason, Kohler is seeing steady improvement. In fact a few of the runners are well on their way towards qualifying for state.
They just keep getting better and better, says Kohler, its a great start in establishing our distance program.
He feels confident in the future of the team, expecting a larger turnout in the years to come.
Their next meet is this Saturday in Cortez at 9 a.m.