At the Western ‘A’ Classic in Kallispell on Saturday, Oct. 13, the Libby High School cross country team was dropping times and picking up PRs.
Almost every Libby runner set either a personal or season record during the meet.
Heading into the Western Classic, Libby Head Coach Rodd Zeiler said that the team was doing really well, including several members who are back off of or improved from injuries that hampered them early in the season.
Those included junior John Cheroske and Senior Mikalyn Zeiler. At the Western Classic, Cheroske shaved 18 seconds to 19:10.1 for a new season record, and Zeiler reached a 21:58.6 personal record, beating her previous best from last season — also at the Classic — by 31 seconds, and destroying her previous season record of 23:11.8.
The team started the season two weeks behind in their training due to the fires this year keeping them inside, and are doing well considering, Coach Zeiler said.
Even junior Freddy Moore, who at the Classic was short of his season record set two weeks before at the Mountain West Classic, still had his second-best time of the year.
And senior William O’Connell set a new personal record, cutting his best time from 19:58.5 to 19:06.2.
Senior Lauren Thorstenson kicked it into high gear with a new season record of 21:33.4, dropping from a 22:14.3.
Sophomore Savanna Sanderson came up only seconds short of a personal record with her 28:42.1, but came away with a season record, cutting almost three minutes from her previous best for the year.
“All of our freshmen are doing fantastic,” Zeiler said going into the meet.
Freshman Dawson Rose pushed out a 20:52.1 personal record, leaving his previous best of 23:11.8 far in his wake.
Freshman Vance Ward came in with a 23:00.4, not only a 1:21 gain over his previous best, but a full three minutes faster than his most recent performance at the Whitefish Invitational on Sept. 25.
After hovering near 21 minutes for several weeks, freshman Lucky Martin took out a 31-second chunk for a personal record of 20:29.
And the program is not only building the participation at the junior high level as well, but that energy from the youngest Loggers is lighting a fire under the high schoolers, Zeiler said.
At the Mountain West Classic on Sept. 29, Libby had a full crew of five junior high girls, Zeiler said. “It was the first time Libby was represented by a team of five junior high girls. I can’t remember the last time that’s ever happened.”
“The high schoolers really enjoy that intensity,” Zeiler said. “The energy is just awesome to have.”
Zeiler said that his daughter, Mikalyn, teared up a little talking about how much she regrets she is graduating and won’t be able to watch some of the younger runners advancing.
“So the high schoolers are really feeling the positive energy,” he said.
As the weather cools down into something more friendly to long outdoor training sessions, Zeiler said the team is excited about the conditions.
“We’re still placing a little rough,” he said. “We’re a young team, but we’re starting to realize that offseason is critical.”
That includes not just training with running, but hitting the weight room to build muscle for balance and structure, he said.
The team is also discussing running earlier in the offseason, before seasonal fires restrict outdoor training, he said.
“As soon as the fires hit, we can’t train as hard, so we need to adjust our training almost into June, and then see if we can ride out the fire season,” Zeiler said.
Discussing how dedicated the junior high runners are turning out to be, Zeiler said it can get more difficult for the older athletes to find time for training on their own time with their increasing commitments as they take on jobs and responsibilities.
“They haven’t gotten the offseason training they would like to, but they’re starting to really chomp at the bit,” he said.
Looking at how some of his newest runners have been dropping their times by multiple minutes between meets, Zeiler noted what he calls “The One Thousand Club.”
“A person really has to run a thousand miles before their body starts to realize, ‘Hey, I’m a runner.’ Until then it’s really hard, because they’re mentally fighting a body that has not felt that before,” he said.
“It takes an extreme amount of grit to get to that point where you feel the wind at your face, you feel yourself like, you can do this now.”
Zeiler expressed pride in the runner who have shown that grit this season, and who have worked through the aches and pains and come back the next day smiling, ready for more.
But running is more than just powering through. Zeiler said that the runners are learning the mental side of distance running as well.
“They’re realizing that every corner means something, every little bump, every little turn, and they’re keeping their head in the race,” he said. “We call them ‘go points,’ between corner to corner, where you can progress and make challenges. That’s really good, and they’re doing that.
“And that’s all I ask, that they do they’re best — and they are,” he said.
Western ‘A’ Classic
At Rebecca Farm, Kalispell
Varsity Boys 5k
Team scores: Columbia Falls 39, Frenchtown 76, Corvallis 78, Hamilton 109, Ronan 131, Whitefish 132, Polson 144, Browning 205, Beaverhead County 247, Stevensville 293, Libby 306
Top 3: 1. Joe Lamb 16:26.56, Columbia Falls; 2. Seth Umbriaco 16:33.04, Columbia Falls; 3. Will Flowers 16:37.19, Corvallis
Also for Libby: William O’Connell 19:06.12, John Cheroske 19:10.09, Lucky Martin 20:28.92, Dawson Rose 20:52.05, Vance Ward 23:00.34, Freddy Moore 25:28.09
Varsity Girls 5k
No team score
Top 3: 1. Beatrix Frissell 18:44.51, Polson; 2. Brynnli Poulsen 18:47.35, Hamilton; 3. Natalie Yocum 19:39.28, Frenchtown
Also for Libby: Lauren Thorstenson 21:33.35; Mikalyn Zeiler 21:58.6; Savanna Sanderson 28:42.01