Frontier Academy girls cross country picking its spots in preparing for state

Frontier Academy's cross country team finished just one point behind eventual champion Holy Family last year. (Courtesy photo)

Frontier Academy's cross country team finished just one point behind eventual champion Holy Family last year. (Courtesy photo)

GREELEY -- Frontier Academy cross country coach Brett Shanklin and his girls choose not to dwell on the past, although it creeps in from time to time.

Instead, his Wolverines, ranked No. 7 in this week's cross country poll, have their eyes squarely focused on this month's Class 3A state meet back at Colorado Springs' Norris Penrose Events Center.

"I probably dwell on it more than the kids," said Shanklin, whose team finished a mere point behind champion Holy Family at last season's state meet. "Cause we were so close and we had this wonderfully awesome team last year. The kids had really come so far and they put a great effort out there. On that day, we were almost there, but not quite good enough."

The 2013 season has been devoted to making sure they are at their best on "that day" and having a little fun in the process.

Frontier Academy is on the west side of Greeley and access to the kinds of terrain they will face at state isn't really close by. So Shanklin and his team have improvised.

"We train for what that course is going to be like, we train for the hills," said Shanklin, who has taken his kids down to the Springs on several occasions already this season. "We just try and simulate some training that is going to prepare us to be successful down there."

Makayla Santos. (Courtesy photo)

Makayla Santos. (Courtesy photo)

There is a spot at a park between Greeley and Loveland that gives the Wolverines exactly what they need. "We call it Championship Hill," Shanklin said, "and our whole premise is that is where champions are made."

Naming their training spots is just something the Wolverines do. There is "The Cemetery", "The Safari" and "The Sahara" -- all meant to diversify how they train and better prepare themselves for the ultimate goal of winning a state title.

Ironically, one of the favorite spots for them to run was right along Poudre River Trail. But after the recent floods, those places have been off limits.

"The place that we call 'Red Barn' is on the Poudre Trail and there was about 3/4 of mile that was hit pretty hard," said senior Makayla Santos, who is the Wolverines' top returning state placer -- 18th -- from last year's state meet.

Santos and her teammates Taylor Bancroft, Megan Murray and Emily Root have had varying degrees of success from the Vista Ridge Invite to the Broomfield Invite. But more than anything, this season's hard work is geared towards one thing: a quality performance at state.

"We ran at pre-state and that was exciting to see what we are expecting from our team," Santos said. "We still just go out there and run."

(Courtesy Photo)

(Courtesy Photo)