LOUISVILLE - Getting to be teammates with Isaac Green, one of the best distance runners to come through Colorado in recent memory, was both a gift and a curse for Monarch's Charlie Perry.
Having Green as a friend and training partner was invaluable in Perry's own pursuit of greatness. At the same time, no matter how well Perry ran his race, he always knew that Green would inevitably pass him down the stretch and deny him victory.
Green is now continuing his running career at the University of Washington, and the door is open for Perry to take his turn at the Coyotes' top runner and potentially as state champion.
"It's a positive and a negative," Perry said of the opportunity to be out of Green's shadow. "It's a negative because he's an awesome guy to train with and he's such a great guy. The only positive is that it's sometimes kind of nice to go into races knowing that there's not this one guy who is always going to outkick me at the end of every race."
At the state championships last season, Green took the Class 5A title with a time of 15 minutes, 57.24 seconds at the Norris-Penrose Event Center course and was later named the Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year in the spring. Perry took third place at state cross country with a time of 16:06.26, which was close behind runner-up Joshua Romine from Mountain Vista.
This year, however, three of last year's top four have since graduated including Green and Romine and Perry appears positioned to make a run at the individual title with his own limits standing as his primary obstacle. On top of that, Perry and his teammates face the communal challenge of defending their 5A cross country team title without Green in the lineup.
"I feel like we have the best chance of any team in the state," Perry said. "Our program is really good at having guys keep building and I think we have a lot of guys who people don't know about who are going to surprise people with how well they're doing at races."
Perry is referring to teammates Will Dixon and Isaac Russo, two Coyotes runners who will help fill in for the graduated runners who helped the Coyotes also go 1-2-3 in the 1,600 and 3,200 at state track in the spring. Dixon ran three individual races and a leg of the Coyotes' winning 3,200-meter relay team at state same meet. Russo just missed out on state track last season but has had a great summer, according to head coach Kent Rieder.
"We have a really strong top three but we also have a strong four and five," Dixon said. "We definitely think we can still win state but it's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication. Staying healthy will be a key because we don't have the same amount of depth, but I think we have the same amount of potential."
The Coyotes' top three all believe the team has a number of others with breakout potential including junior Paxton Hansberg, who could be primed for a big year. They think they can repeat as state champions and have set their sights even higher, looking to make it all the way to Nike Cross Nationals.
"We want to win state and to go to nationals," Russo said. "We had Isaac go last year, but we didn't make it as a team. We've been putting in a lot of work so I feel pretty confident about it. We're just going to show up to practice every single day and work to build that team mentality and to continue to push each other in meets."