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Pirate harriers lace ‘em up for first meet of season

With runners set to lace up their shoes for their first official meet of the season Saturday in Bayfield, the Pagosa Springs High Schools girls’ and boys’ cross country teams are eager to see how their paces compares with those of their competitors.

On the girls’ side, the Pirates welcome back five athletes who ran at state competition last year, as well as one alternate from the state competition.

Returning seniors Crystal Purcell, Danielle Pajak and Mele Lelievre all experienced state competition, as did junior Brooke Hampton and sophomore Haleigh Venz. Junior Tori Stroehecker served as an alternate at the state meet.

While a mix of both old and new will comprise the team, head coach Scott Anderson said the roster on the varsity side will be in flux throughout the season.

“There’s a whole pack of them that are running really close together,” Anderson said, adding that the competitiveness is welcome and gives the team more leeway in case of illness or injury.

Among those who are vying for varsity spots this season are freshmen Dana Danielson and Emily Bryant, who is splitting her athletic talents between cross country and volleyball.

“Until we truly go out and prove ourselves in a race, I’m hesititant to make predictions,” Anderson said of the upcoming season. “We have the potential to be a fairly strong squad within the region and we hope to see where we fit in with the state.”

While the girls’ squad features a mix of new and old, the boys will run as a realitvely young team in 2010, with only one senior — team capitan Garrett Stoll, who is currently recovering from surgery and taking it day by day.

In his absence, the team will be led by junior Carlos Brinkman, who is coming off an 11th place finish at last year’s state meet.

Three other juniors — Evan Brookins, Moses Huck and Zach Graveson — are augmented by a “bevy of strong freshman, including Tyler Greenly, Mason Chronowski and Zach Ellis,” Anderson said.

Not unlike the girls, Anderson said the crew is working closely together, pushing each other.

With fewer people who have run in significant meets, Anderson said the team’s ability to perform under pressure is yet to be seen.

“We hope to find out much more this weekend when we run against our favorite rivals over in Bayfield,” Anderson said.

The action at the Bayfield Invitational starts at 11 a.m. Saturday.

randi@pagosasun.com