Cross country: James Overberg, Centaurus ready to make the most of 2020

Warriors will return entire team from last year’s state meet

Metthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
Centaurus High School Senior James Overberg poses for a portrait on Aug. 19, 2020.

For the early portion of his life, James Overberg considered himself to be a swimmer and for good reason since we was quite gifted in the pool.

But when a family tie drew him to cross country, Overberg found a new athletic pursuit that grew on him more and more over time. The thing is, Overberg is kind of an all-or-nothing type of guy when it comes to being competitive and trying to be the best he can be. So it became clear there was only room in his life for swimming or cross country, and not for both.

He chose cross country.

“I swam competitively for a team and that took up a good portion of my life because the sport is 11 months a year,” Overberg said. “I started running in high school because my mom did cross country in high school. My sophomore year, I realized I would have to choose which one to put 100% of the effort into because both swimming and running are very challenging sports.

“I realized that running was where my heart is.”

Overberg deciding to dedicate himself to cross country might be the linchpin of the Centaurus boys cross country team’s prolonged run of title contention over the past several years.

A critical runner for the Warriors’ 2017 runner-up finish, and on their Class 4A state championship team in 2018, Overberg was the team’s top individual finisher last fall. With a time of 16 minutes, 15.4 seconds, Overberg placed eighth overall to claim his first top-10 medal in the sport. Back for his senior season, Overberg has set his sights higher both individually and for the Warriors team.

Centaurus' Max Heins, right, at the ...
Brad Cochi/
Centaurus’ Max Heins, seen here competing at the 2019 St. Vrain Invite, is another key component to what the Warriors hope is a Class 4A team title-contending group.

Behind Overberg, the Centaurus boys return their entire team – Max Heins, John McGill, Ben Handwerker, Kailer Smith, Harrison Freis-Levy and Robert Marquez – from last year’s group that finished sixth. That’s obviously an unusual circumstance and a reason for a team to be excited.

“We’re returning all seven of our runners, which is very rare but very good,” Overberg said. “I’m really excited about that. We have a strong group but the best part is that we’ve been running together for a long time and we have a great bond. Centaurus won my sophomore year and got second my freshman year but we still feel like we’re an underrated team so we’re looking to get back on top.”

The Warriors’ bevy of returning runners, as well as a strong contingent on the girls side, isn’t the only unusual circumstances they find themselves in this fall. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this season’s structure and rules for competition will look very different for all teams.

“It’s definitely unique,” Centaurus head coach Devin Rourke said. “That experience from all our returners is something we’ll be relying on, especially during a season full of so many uncertainties. We’re just thankful to have the opportunity to race at all.”

Following a summer defined by uncertainty and doubt, Colorado will have high school cross country during the fall of 2020.

Overberg and the Warriors are ready to make the most of it.

Point me to the postseason
This year will be different with just 100 runners qualifying for each of the eight races at the state championships (Oct. 17 at Norris-Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs). Runners will still qualify through regional events, but fewer teams and individuals will get through.