Monticello harriers set to open season at Boggy Draw Bear Chase in Dolores
by Rhett Sifford
When the dust finally settled on the 2022 high school cross country season the Monticello Buckaroos had accomplished something they hadn’t in nine seasons.
Both the boys and girls teams brought home state trophies – runners-up trophies to be exact. Though they hoped to win state championships the second-place performances were an excellent starting point.
This season they hope to advance and come home with first-place hardware, and they’re poised to do so. Only two runners graduated from the 2022 team so the Buckaroos return a bevy of varsity experience and talent.
They’re set to open the season this Saturday, August 19 with a trip to Dolores to compete in the fifth annual Boggy Draw Bear Chase along with a host of other local teams.
Monticello Head Coach Jeff Hunt, who’s entering his 19th season with the Bucks, recently shares his thoughts on the 2023 season and the team. Here are his comments:
Rhett Sifford: Winning runners-up trophies last season I know you’re looking for state championships this year. What are you feeling as you get set to start?
Jeff Hunt: Well, we definitely feel like we have some unfinished business and I think we are up to the task.
RS: Have any runners surprised you with their growth and performance since last year?
JH: I was very encouraged by all the girls’ performances during track. The boys branched out during the track season and it’s still a little early to evaluate their growth on the cross country season. The early impression from practice so far is that several athletes are ready to pick up where they left off.
RS: Who do you expect to step up into leadership roles this season?
JH: Early this season the senior boys – Jesse Pettit, Curtis Bunker, and Soren Welch have stepped into being the team leaders. Ayla Carling for the girls has emerged as the go-to when something needs to get done.
RS: Where do you expect to have strengths this year?
JH: The boys are a deep, veteran team. If one person struggles, the next person can pick them right up and go on with the next man up. The girls have run together for a long time and they know each others’ strengths and weaknesses very well.
RS: In what areas might you need work?
JH: The girls need depth. When you’re a small team, there’s no room for error and if someone gets injured it could be devastating for the season. The boys need to run together, pull each other along, and bring it when it matters. At the 2022 state meet, we faltered as a team that stuck together as we dropped off at the end.
RS: Are there any strong young runners coming up?
JH: For the boys, Charlie Welch appears to be leading the youngsters coming up and could make a run at a varsity spot by the end of the year. Seth Taylor and McKay Nielson also could jump in and push the veterans. For the girls, it may be a real small squad so the future is wide open.
RS: How do you stack up to region/state competition this year?
JH: We are the teams to beat in the region again, but should have a serious challenge from Whitehorse if their young runners develop. Monument Valley and Pinnacle also have some young talent.
The boys are going into this season as the team to beat in the 1A with Water Canyon moving up. Milford, Panguitch, and Piute have the runners to be contenders.
The girls could once again challenge for a trophy but Panguitch is #1 with a very strong team. Rich, Whitehorse, and Bryce Valley are also looking to take a shot at the title.
RS: What do you hope to accomplish as a team this season?
JH: Every team wants to end the season on top and that’s a great goal to have. I think for me though, I really hope the kids learn some life lessons like commitment and determination. That will go a long way.
The Boggy Draw Bear Chase is run on one of the toughest cross country courses in southwestern Colorado. Much of the trail system was built by linking together cow paths created by the cattle that graze in the Dolores area every summer.
Its undulating circuit weaves through scattered ponderosa pine, oak brush, and an occasional meadow. Racing for the high school teams begins with the girls teams at 10 a.m. this Saturday.