It was an offseason of extreme highs and lows for Coronado's cross country program and coach Doug Hugill.
The downside was obvious as fire swept through the neighborhoods in which many of the school's students reside. Nearly all were evacuated and, if they didn't lose their home, knew others that did.
“This summer, we got hit with the fire really hard,” Hugill said. “Coming into this, you're thinking 'this is going to be a rough season' because they don't have the training. You have to train all summer. They were training in smoke, kids were displaced from their homes.
“I was thinking 'how can we rebound from this?'”
He got his answer – impressively. Students, faculty and staff rallied around each other. That revelation was one of the highs. The other came in the form of reinforcements.
Bailey Roth and Andres Petrucci both transferred to Coronado, Roth from Georgia and Petrucci from Fort Morgan.
Roth was the Georgia Class 3A state champion in cross country and also the national champion in both the mile 4:21.55 and the 2 mile (9:22.98) at the Emerging Elite classification (underclassmen) at the New Balance National Track and Field Championships in June.
Petrucci is an emerging star who didn't join the team until midseason.
“When Bailey and Andres showed up, it helped a lot because they added a lot of depth and a lot of talent to an already really good team,” said Dan Egger, who Hugill described as “the engine on our team.”
Now that depth will be put to the test as the Cougars will compete at the Colorado 4A state cross country championships Saturday at the Norris-Penrose Event Center. Hugill identified Cheyenne Mountain, The Classical Academy, Centaurus, Broomfield and Thompson Valley as his team's main competition for the top spot.
“We just go and do what we need to do and we'll be fine,” he said. “I'm not saying we're going to win it because Cheyenne Mountain is great, these other teams are great teams, but all our guys need to do is run like they have at every meet all season. If they do that, I think they win.”
In a normal year, how the Cougars perform at state would determine their rank among the many great teams, including the 1995 state championship team, that have roamed Coronado's corridors. Hugill believes that this year's team has already written its legacy in granite with a pen of flame.
“That's what really defines this season,” he said. “Not the fire, but how the kids rally around each other, feed off each other to be the best they can be and say 'this fire is not going to define us, it's not going to beat us and it's not going to hold us down.'
“I'm really proud of them. To go from an attitude of 'this thing is trying to defeat us' to having a chance to win it – we have a chance, a real chance – that's exciting.”
Where: Norris-Penrose Event Center
When: Saturday: Opening ceremonies: 8 a.m.; 2A girls, 9:30 a.m.; 3A boys, 10 a.m.; 4A boys, 10:30 a.m.; 5A girls, 11 a.m.; 2A boys, 11:30 a.m.; 3A girls, noon; 4A girls, 12:30 p.m.; and 5A boys, 1 p.m.; team awards, 1:45 p.m.
Parking: $5 per vehicle on north side of Lower Gold Camp Road or $10 on grounds at Norris-Penrose Event Center. Spectators are encouraged not to park in surrounding neighborhoods.
Restrictions: None. Bags and coolers are allowed, but concessions will be available on site.
Athlete Village: The indoor arena at Norris-Penrose Event Center doubles as the Athlete Village for the state cross country meet. The 36,000-square foot building has lights, heat and is a short 90-second walk to the start line.
Directions: From I-25: Take Exit 141 and turn left at Cimarron, left at South 8th St. and right at Lower Gold Camp Road. South: I-25 N to Exit 141 and turn left. From US-24: Turn right on South 21st St., then turn left on Lower Gold Camp Road at light. Continue past Bear Creek Regional Park. Norris-Penrose Event Center will be on the right.