High expectations surround The Classical Academy cross country — again

The Classical Academy Cross country coach Alan Versaw. (Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

The Classical Academy Cross country coach Alan Versaw. (Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

COLORADO SPRINGS — Here was the initial roster: Seven boys, three girls. Six of those kids were still in middle school.

"We were running as individuals," coach Alan Versaw said recently. "But it was fun."

"To this day," he added, "the things I learned from them, the sort of team things they set in place, are still present. It is uncanny how much harkens back to the first year or two when there were just so few kids there. They just wanted to go out and conquer everything they could conquer."

Versaw's program has grown to the point that it is now among the state's elite. The girls have won ten consecutive state championships dating to 2003 and the boys have five in that same span.

"I was completely unaware of the sort of stuff that would follow," Versaw said. "Not in my wildest dreams could I imagine the kind of program it became."

The coach himself didn't even run cross country in high school. He went to Sangre de Cristo, near Alamosa, where he played football and ran track. The school didn't have a cross country program.

"I don't think I would've run cross country if we had," Versaw said. "I wasn't tuned that way quite yet."

In college, he started participating in road races, but a bone chip in his knee forced surgery and he stopped running — for 20 years. He didn't pick it back up again until started TCA's program.

"I knew that I really, really liked the kind of mindset that came out for cross country," Versaw said.

By 2003, the girls had won a Class 3A state title. A year later, the boys won their first. Things exploded from there, and Versaw's Titans started to dominate. In 2006, both teams won state championships. In 2009, TCA girls went 1-2-3, placed five runners in the top ten and six in the top 13.

Last year, both programs made the leap to 4A. The boys finished eighth — "Last year was kind of a tough year for the guys to bridge up to 4A," Versaw said, noting they returned just one runner from the 2011 state meet — and the girls won.

"The depth of the other teams is so different" in 4A, Versaw said. "3A has some really talented individuals, but we were going, any given year, seven or eight or nine girls deep and there weren't 3A schools that could match up.

"You know, a couple of (the girls) told me that at the end of the season: 'Coach, I was really kind of skeptical at the beginning of the season, not sure what to make of it, but it was a lot more fun at the end,' " Versaw added. "And that's easy to understand. What's more fun? Going up a 14er where you've got to use your hands and you're hanging out in the air a little, or just strolling up? That's the kind of difference it is."

This season, the girls opened as the No. 1 team in the preseason 4A Colorado Track XC/CHSAANow.com poll. The boys are No. 3.

So, yeah, expectations are high. Again.

The girls return five of the seven girls from last year's state meet team.

"We went about 11 girls deep, really strong last year, and we only lost two as seniors," Versaw said. "We just had a really good summer. A lot of dedication from the kids. Yes, they lifted the level of their training, but I think they also did it in a smart way. There's a pretty tight bonding among these girls, and I think they're committed to one another.

"They know what it takes," he continued. "The eyes were open kind of wide last year, in 4A, and they didn't know what to expect. I think they made some adjustments over the last year and I think that's why I saw the kind of summer I did with their training."

Six of seven boys from last year's state meet team are back.

"Eighth isn't bad, but they had a whole new picture and a whole new mindset this year of what it takes," Versaw said. "They worked harder this summer than ever before, and their sights are high."

The Classical Academy at the state meet

A look at how TCA's cross country teams have fared at the state meet since 2001, including a breakdown of how individual runners finished.

Year Team Class No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4 No. 5 No. 6 No. 7
2012 1st 4A 6th 7th 16th 18th 51st 64th 99th
2011 1st 3A 2nd 3rd 7th 8th 18th 28th
2010 1st 3A 7th 9th 11th 12th 13th 20th
2009 1st 3A 1st 2nd 3rd 9th 10th 13th
2008 1st 3A 1st 3rd 5th 7th 17th 21th
2007 1st 3A 1st 3rd 7th 17th 23rd
2006 1st 3A 2nd 8th 11th 22th 47th
2005 1st 3A 2nd 14th 17th 46th 147th
2004 1st 3A 12th 28th 30th 31st
2003 1st 3A 6th 13th 25th 38th
2002 3rd 3A 5th 32nd 35th 39th
2001 - 3A 74th 78th
Year Team Class No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4 No. 5 No. 6 No. 7
2012 8th 4A 8th 36th 41st 60th 102nd 109th 111th
2011 1st 3A 2nd 3rd 10th 21st 23rd 46th
2010 1st 3A 2nd 3rd 12th 23rd 25th 37th
2009 2nd 3A 4th 13th 24th 26th 38th 54th
2008 1st 3A 4th 11th 18th 20th 45th 52nd
2007 3rd 3A 4th 5th 30th 50th 72nd
2006 1st 3A 3rd 13th 19th 45th 92nd
2005 3rd 3A 2nd 16th 37th 40th 90th
2004 1st 3A 1st 15th 21st 25th
2003 4th 3A 6th 24th 33rd 50th
2002 4th 3A 5th 24th 67th 87th
2001 - 3A 78th