To have the sustained success — four straight Class 5A championships and nine of the last 11 City League titles — that the Bishop Carroll boys cross country team has had, there has to be more to it than just a string of great runners.
While coach Cory Swords admits he has had his fair share of great runners, he thinks the reason why the Eagles have been so good over the years can be found in seniors such as Damian Hiser and Lucas Clupny.
Carroll has thrived on runners sticking with the program, even if it meant not getting a shot on varsity until their final seasons. The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in 5A, even after graduating three elite runners because of the improvements by the senior class of Hiser, Clupny, Matt Arnold and Nick Martin.
“It’s a testament to the type of character of Lucas and Damian,” Swords said. “Those are kids that continued to believe in what they were doing and put in the time and they’ve continued to get better and better. Now they are key to us hopefully continuing our tradition and our success.”
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Carroll graduated three of its top four runners from last season’s state championship team, but has remained a contender without a dominant runner because of the success of its pack.
Martin, Arnold, and Clupny, along with Hunter Nance and Paul Becker, are all running the 5-kilometer under 17 minutes. Hiser, the seventh runner, is not far off with a personal best of 17:12.
Swords calls all four of his seniors “program kids” because they have been with the team for all four years and steadily progressed each season.
A fifth straight state title seemed unreasonable at the end of last season, but the work put in by the returning runners has retained Carroll at the top as a favorite once again.
“Our goal is always excellence,” Swords said. “We feel if we go into the state race and we run an excellent race, then we can achieve excellence and we’ll feel really good about coming away from that race with good things happening.”
Carroll will not run its varsity this weekend in El Dorado, taking the week off to prepare for the City League meet on Oct. 19.
A win for Winfield — The future Class 4A champion could very well be on the Winfield boys team right now.
It’s just hard to know whether it’s going to be the defending champion, senior Josh Hanna, or the heir to his throne, sophomore Riley Osen. With Hanna recovering from a knee injury in the offseason, Osen has ascended to the top of races this season.
Coach Torey Keller said the possibility of the two finishing first and second at the state meet is not out of the question.
“Just don’t ask me who’s going to be first and who’s going to be second,” Keller said. “I think they both have a pretty good shot at it.”
Hanna, who missed last weekend’s race in Winfield due to a previous obligation regarding his college decision, has been far from 100 percent this season. Keller said he is fine for the first two miles of the race, but finishing has been a problem because Hanna was unable to build his core strength in the summer.
That has opened the door for Osen, who won the Winfield Invitational in 15:55.
“He’s been really hungry to beat Josh for some time now and it’s not because he’s not friends with him,” Keller said. “That’s just been a goal of his for a long time because Josh is such a great runner.”
With two runners vying for first place, it also gives Winfield a chance at a team trophy at the Class 4A meet with better depth provided by Noah Camp, Tyler Wallace, Drew Keller, Drew Chrisman and Chauncey Toon.
Winfield also has a competitive girls team, which will race this weekend at the El Dorado Invitational. The Vikings are led by McKenzie Thiel, Courtney Griffiths, Madison Pollock, Karrie McNutt and Hanna Wingett.