For years, the Pueblo West High School cross country program has had to beg, borrow and steal to find a place to train.
The result was training at Colorado State University-Pueblo at the Neta & Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl - a 20-minute drive and a 25-mile roundtrip from Pueblo West High School.
Despite that, the boys and girls cross country programs are perennial state qualifiers, either on the individual or team level.
In 2014, with a new state-of-the-art track and running facility now standing on the Pueblo West campus, Cyclone cross country athletes are eager to get a leg up.
“For our kids, it’s a place to train,” Pueblo West cross country coach Matt Sherman said. “It gives us a chance to host some of our own meets [in track and field] and eventually we’d like to build a cross country course here.”
As the first team to benefit from the facility, hopes are high for a solid 2014.
The boys squad, which finished fourth in the state last season, is expecting another strong showing this year, led by seniors Zach Retzlaff and Jacob Sloan.
Retzlaff, who finished 28th at state last year with a 5K time of 17:41, was the runner-up at the 2013 South-Central League Championships. As the top finishing returner from the SCL meet, he is the odds-on favorite to take the individual SCL title this year.
But Retzlaff has a doppleganger on the course in Sloan, who finished 31st at state, just three seconds behind Retzlaff. The duo often runs neck-and-neck and has the potential to be a powerful scoring combination at any meet.
“Zach is one of the top runners in the city for sure,” Sherman said. “Jacob is right there with him.”
To help round out the team’s top five, Sherman is expecting juniors Justus Bernal and Austin Walrod to pick up the slack.
Walrod, who competed at state with the Cyclones last year, has shown potential, posting a sub-18-minute time at regionals last year. Bernal has done the same, posting a sub-18-minute 5K at Coronado last year and has been consistently improving.
On the girls side, the Cyclones don’t return their two state qualifiers from a year ago, Darby Spence and Bailie Jones, but do bring back Ava Barrier, who did qualify for state but was forced to miss the meet with an injury.
Barrier turns in a 5K that hovers around the 20-minute mark, which puts her in the top 25 in the state if she could turn in such times consistently.
She leads a team that should be in the running for league title, as well.
“Ava has made big strides and has run with us all the summer,” Sherman said. “That will help our team for sure.”
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