Brad Cochi / Staff Photographer
Brad Cochi / Staff Photographer
LAFAYETTE — It’s one thing to have the expectations.
It’s quite another to live up to them.
And yes, the Centaurus cross country teams, both the boy and the girls, have placed in the top 10 of the Class 4A state meet each of the past two seasons. But the Warriors are still a bit of an afterthought when it comes to discussing title contenders.
The times, though, they are a changin’ and the 2017 Warriors are in the title discussion — especially after a sweep at this past weekends showing at the Northern Conference championships in Loveland.
“They have held there own against some pretty tough competition here locally and out in California. I think they have the confidence to run well when it matters,” said seventh year head coach Devin Rourke, who coached the boys to a state title in 2011.
“Every season is different and you learn something new from every season and this season we came out and decided to try our hand at some sea-level racing in the middle of the season. We thought that would help in our build up for the state meet. I think it went well and they are handling the training and are racing really well.”
With a season geared to peak at the most critical month of the season, starting last Friday at the conference meet at the traditionally slower Old Lake Course in Loveland, the Warriors captured an elusive Northern League crown — they finished third there in their state title season of 2011 — on both sides.
Senior John O’Malley, who finished 12th at state last season, cruised through the course in a school record setting time of 15 minutes, 20 seconds. That was 23 seconds faster than Chandler Reid’s run at the always quick Liberty Bell in 2012.
“I wasn’t expecting that course to be that fast at all, because it hadn’t run that fast in previous years, so it really came as a complete surprise,” said O’Malley, the Warriors captain. “It felt great. This season we have really focused on building a great team and cutting down our pack time and that was something that we were really proud of when we accomplished it.”
The difference between O’Malley and the Warriors fifth runner on Friday was a mere 45 seconds. O’Malley, Cooper Brown, Alex Hooten, Kyle Piper and James Overburg — whose time of 16:05 was more than a minute faster than his previous best — all finished in the top 14. Henry Bowman was right there in 16th.
It’s an effort like that, that has Rourke grinning from ear to ear.
“They are crucial. I talk about it all the time, it takes seven. It’s not just a fast front, you need everyone. And we have had some guys, (James) Overburg for one has really stepped up as a freshman. Our scoring depth, through our 3-4-5 guys are not really that far behind John and Cooper,” Rourke said. “It’s fun, and when you get to that level you can start working off of each other in races and in training. They all have training partners that are at their ability, so that lends a lot of strength to what we do day in and day out.
The Warriors, if the didn’t believe already, certainly solidified the mental aspect of their approach with their showing at the Woodbridge Classic in California. It gave them the confidence they needed for the rest of their in-state schedule, but after the season, when the national circuit heats up.
“It showed that our team was able to compete at a very high level between states and solidified how good we really were and could be throughout the season,” O’Malley said. “We are looking forward to (the rest of the season) and stuff like that definitely raises the bar. We are now expecting to well at some of the bigger meets and compete well on that bigger scale.”
First things first will be the regional meet in Lyons next Thursday, a course where the Warriors have run well in the past but just haven’t gotten the results they necessarily wanted — finishing third last season to a Niwot team that is constantly challenging them.
The girls have been equally as impressive and will also head to regionals with momentum after a win at the conference meet. Riley Gildean and Katie Hooten went 2-3 and much the boys, their 3-4-5 of Molly Maksin, Grace Armstrong and Helen Gover held their own by finishing in the top 14.
“We train together almost every single day,” O’Malley said. ‘”We are hoping to come back and do better. As for state, we want to peak for the state meet and focus on our strengths. I think we are going to have a very good showing and hopefully place in the top three … that’s our goal at least.”