Crook County returns most of cross country team
In recent years, the Crook County High School boys cross country team has turned into something of a state power.
Three years ago, the Cowboys won the Class 4A state championship.
After moving up to Class 5A in 2018, the Cowboys surprised everyone by placing second in the 5A state meet.
Following the season, longtime CCHS head coach Tracy Smith retired.
Assistant coach Orie Gonzales was named the new head coach, and the Cross Country team didn't miss a beat.
The Cowboys went on to place sixth at this year's state championship, while for the second consecutive year the Cowgirls were a close third at the Intermountain Conference Meet, just missing out on a trip to state.
"I can't ask for them to do anything, but the best that they have, and that's what I was seeing from our team," Gonzales said following the season. "I couldn't be happier. We ran season bests at the end, so I'm pretty proud of them."
The future should still be bright for the CCHS runners.
The Cowboys lose just three runners to graduation and only two of them competed at the state meet.
The Cowgirls have even more of their team back. Just two runners on the Cowgirl team will graduate, while much of the team is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
However, that doesn't mean that the seniors won't be missed.
On the boys side, Cade Catterson was the Cowboys' top finisher at the state meet each of the last two years, while Zach Mauras was the team's fourth-place man for much of the season.
The team will also lose Austin Strong to graduation. Strong ran on the varsity team at district but was edged out for a spot at the state meet by junior Steven Ware, who was running in just the first race of his young cross country career.
Although the seniors will be missed, the Cowboys return a lot of firepower. Junior Alex Carne, who won the Intermountain Conference championship, should lead the team. He will be joined by fellow juniors Alex Vail and Ware, as well as sophomores Van Williams and Tucker Bonner. Junior Xavier Layne could also be in the mix after running varsity for much of this past season.
In addition, Jonas Rice, who did not compete this year because of a lingering leg injury but who has state meet experience, should be back next year.
The Cowgirls should also be strong again next season.
The team loses Jan Carne and Kennedy Larsen to graduation.
Carne has been one of the top distance runners in the state each of the last four years.
However, even without Carne the team should be able to challenge for a state meet berth next season.
Freshman Savannah Jessee led the Cowgirls at the IMC meet, placing sixth and just missing out on a trip to the state meet.
Joining Jessee on next year's varsity team should be juniors Maggie Ramoss and Kelcie Ames, along with sophomores McCall Woodward, Lindsey Mode and Elise Rice.
Also, in the mix is freshman Anne Carne.
Gonzales said that she is also expecting some strong runners to enter the program from this year's Crook County Middle School program.
She added that the coaching staff is working hard to recruit more runners into the program as well as preparing for their summer workout program.
"We are going to be running a lot of miles this summer," she said. "Hopefully next year the girls team can join the boys team at the state meet."
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