There is so much more to cross country running than just being good at what is essentially a basic biological human capability. However, one would be selling Lyons’ Katie Fankhouser and Quin Gregg way, way short to think the only thing they’re good at is grinding away through mental and physical stresses five kilometers at a time.
The young duo is about as dynamic as one can find.
Fankhouser, as has been well-documented, is a world-class freestyle whitewater kayaker — a skill that certainly requires strength, fearlessness and creativity. Meanwhile, Gregg is fully involved in music as member of the Lyons High band and jazz band ensemble. It’s an endeavor that explores her creativity, too, even if it isn’t competitive … yet.
When it comes to pounding the dirt at a high level, though, there has to be a passion involved equivalent to any of those other activities. And for Fankhouser, a senior, and Gregg, a rising sophomore, running and competing together and against each other for one more year is fueling that passion.
Gregg pushed Fankhouser for the entirety of 2018, including the Class 2A girls state championship race where the pair went 1-2 — Fankhouser went 19 minutes, 24 seconds at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs for her first individual title, and Gregg was just 12 seconds behind that for silver.
In fact, Gregg finished higher at a couple of early season events and even won the RE-1J meet that included Niwot’s top-tier 4A girls crew. While the nationally renowned Cougars were not running full-on that event, Gregg’s time of 21:13.60 on that course really boosted her confidence.
“(The Re-1J) kind of made me realize that I was better than I thought I was and that I still had a lot of room to grow,” Gregg said. “It opened my eyes, wow, I’m actually here and I can actually help this team win (a state title).”
The pair went on to finish within one second of each other at the regional meet — work that signified a partnership — and that helped them drastically at state.
Don’t think, though, that Fankhouser is willing to relinquish a title so easily to her friend if it comes down to that this October.
“Definitely will be trying to defend the title with this munchkin chasing me,” Fankhouser said. “I’m really excited to be training with the person that I’m most worried about. We’re going to get to battle it out all season long, every race and every workout, and it’s just going to be so much fun getting to race one of my best friends.”
The Lyons girls continue to build their dynasty under coach Mark Roberts, and their 2018 team title represented their second state championship. On paper, a third overall title seems well within reach. LHS also returns Hannah Thomas, now a junior, who placed 12th overall to help her team run away with the 1st place plaque.
“Hannah’s been training really hard this summer, and she knows being that third one is a really big deal,” Fankhouser said. “It’s the important position of being a scorer, stepping up and being expected to score this year. Last year, our senior just didn’t have the race she wanted but Hannah stepped up. She’s really ready for the challenge and I know she’s ready to cut some time.”
The group of top-15 girls in 2A includes several returners. Locally, Nederland’s Helen Cross won the title in 2017 and will be looking to get back to the top as a senior. Outside of Fankhouser and Gregg, 11 of the top 15 girls were eligible to return in 2019 — though Lucca Fulkerson transferred from Dawson School to Niwot and thus will not factor into the small-school mix.
Which makes the championship day race another opportunity to be creative in an attempt to gain an edge.