Independent sports editor, Dahl Erickson, caught up with the Star Valley High School Cross-Country team just before they began their 2014 campaign at a midnight madness practice they refer to as “Cross-mas.” Find out why they think it’s the best time of the year.
The Braves are working to collect their third consecutive 3A state championship while the Lady Braves are looking to get back on top of the pile after winning it in 2012 and finishing second last season.
“Twas the night before Crossmas, and all through the wood. The runners were putting on jackets and hoods…”.
This was the beginning of a poem written by Star Valley cross-country coach, Ty Draney, as he addressed more than 50 new and returning runners just minutes before they disappeared into the night.
“…and visions of a repeat, danced in their heads,” Draney added later on. No sooner had the words come out the returning seniors on the Braves blurted out, “Three-peat!”
That in a nutshell tells the story of the team goals for this year’s team. While the Lady Braves aren’t defending a title this year, they do want it back after finishing second last season.
“Tonight’s about getting together and seeing all the work that they’ve put in over the summer,” he said. “We’ll get a good look at how we did and see where we are.”
Another phrase Draney will use is, “it’s a numbers game.” The program doesn’t seem to be struggling there. It seems like ancient history the years where both genders together comprised 17 runners. This year’s version brings back an individual champion, two more all-staters and a half-dozen varsity returners from last season’s efforts that resulted in a boys state championship and a girls runner-up finish.
Still, runners have to run and perform on any given day which means all the summer miles are that much more important.
Nic Demler and Cody Peck lead the two-time reigning champs and will be joined by some enviable experience from last year’s title run like Mitch Rider and Connor Turner. Freshman phenom, Shane Henderson, is a wild card for the Braves as he looks to make noise in just his first year in high school. Jake Thompson and Kade Smith will push for the final varsity spots and provide quality depth while a pack of runners fights to get in on the action.
Hannah Demler leads the Lady Braves who lost just one senior (Dakota Bateman) from last year’s runner-up finish. Madison Ashworth appears healthy after an injury-marred sophomore season. Aspen Heward and Courtney Smith both return as well. With Caitlyn Turner looking to make that next step the team should be tough.
While many are putting the Jackson Lady Broncs as the favorites, the Lady Braves will be right in the mix down the stretch and it would not be a surprise to see them recapture the trophy.
If things click like they have many times over the past three seasons, Crossmas will continue to be one of the school’s favorite holidays.
This year’s state course will be back in Sheridan on October 25.
Aug. 29 SV Dairy Mud Run
Sep. 6: @ Cardinal Classic (Soda Springs
Sep. 13: @ BYU Classic
Sep. 18: @ Lander
Oct. 3: @ Park City, UT
Oct. 8: Braves Time Trial
Oct. 17: Regionals (SVHS)
Oct. 25: State @ Sheridan