Camp Verde cross country opens season at Wickenburg
Armed with an ever-growing program, Camp Verde High cross country opened the season with a handful of top 11 finishes.
On the girls side, Destiny Elio, Lupe Herrera, and Raven Pelfrey finished ninth, 10th and 11th respectively at their first meet on Wednesday at Wickenburg Country Club. For the Cowboy boys, Sy Hanson was 10th and Justin Ritzenthaler 11th.
“For most kids it was their first race and they learned a lot,” CV head coach David Castillo said. “They will need to take this race and build from it.”
The Cowboys competed against Wickenburg, Bradshaw Mountain and Chino Valley.
Jasmine Jones finished 13th and Shanelle Backus 16th. For the boys, Bryon Mina was 21st, Austin Dexter 25th, Aaron Matthews 26th and Ruben Tracy 30th.
The meet at Wrangler kicked off a busy two week stretch for the Cowboys. After the Ray Wherley Invite at Embry-Riddle on Sept. 14 they have a week break before they host the Camp Verde XC Invitational on Sept. 21, the only high school meet in Verde Valley this year.
“We actually have a grueling two weeks, so we have four races in 14 days,” Castillo said on Tuesday. “We’ll to go Wickenburg…then we’re back for two days rest and training and then we head to Flagstaff for the Peaks run, which is something that we haven’t done or I haven’t been a part of and then we come back, down to Phoenix. We’ll go to the Horizon Honors run, which we did last year and then we’re gonna be heading to Prescott to run at Embry-Riddle, so there’s a lot racing within the next 14 days and it’s gonna be a challenge for the kids.”
However the Cowboys do have a bigger program in Castillo’s second year at the helm.
“The team is looking great, the kids are working hard, we’ve got some numbers this year, we started last year with two kids, now I’m up to 13 right now, with some cross overs from volleyball and soccer, so we’ve got a pretty good looking team this year,” Castillo said.
He said it’s been awesome to see the program grow.
“This is what my vision was last year, is to get the program growing and just have numbers and kids that wanna be out here from day one,” Castillo said.
With more time this season, the Cowboys were able to have a summer camp before the season.
Matthews said he likes both the bigger and smaller versions of CV cross country.
“It’s pretty cool, I enjoy seeing other people,” Matthews said. “The smallness of the group last year was kinda cool too though, because it was like more tightly knit but we got more people this year, so hopefully more medals (laughs).”
Elio, one of the newcomers this season, said cross country has been really tough but it’s also a lot of fun.
“The team’s been really good, especially just getting to know each other has been a lot of fun,” Elio said.
Last month the Cowboys had a fundraiser and team bonding event when they hosted a 24-hour relay to raise money for the team. The kids and coaches ran for 24 hours on Aug. 23 to 24 at Camp Verde’s track.
“We did awesome, the kids were of course tired as you can imagine but they ran 152 miles,” Castillo said. “We ran as a team, some of the coaches ran as well and like I said, as you can imagine waking up at 3 in the morning to go run a mile is never any fun but we woke ‘em up, there was kids volunteering to run other people’s miles to let someone else sleep and they really worked together as a team and we had a pretty good financial contributions from our community as well as family members and things like that. We raised quite a bit of money for the team.”
Although the squad is mostly new to the sport, they have impressed Castillo so far this year.
“They’ve all been doing really well,” Castillo said. “I’m actually really impressed with Ruben, it’s his first year running, he played football last year, he was part of the line and he’s been dedicated, here from day one, even for summer camp and we had that 24 hour relay fundraiser two weekends ago and he was actually our top boys runner, he ran 15 miles for the team, so he was awesome.”
The Cowboys even feature a couple athletes who play other fall sports running for the team this year, Alondra Fowler, a defender/midfielder for the girls soccer team and Bennett Holm, an outside hitter on the volleyball team.
“They’ve been instrumental in helping the team grow as well, if things work out, I plan on trying to maybe get one of the soccer boys but of course if we have a full team my commitment is to those who have been here all year,” Castillo said.
The rise in participation for the cross country teams follows a trend for CV’s other fall sports.
“We do have a lot bigger numbers in all the sports,” Castillo said. “A lot of the recruitment is the coaches have been very consistent and persistent with the kids. (CV head boys soccer) coach (David) Miller has been instrumental in spreading the word about the team and he’s been with the team for many years and also the kids get their peers involved. There’s three or four or five kids that just walked up and said ‘hey, so and so’s running for the team, can I run with you coach?’ and I said ‘absolutely, get your red card, get your physical, get all your stuff you need to do and be consistent, be loyal to the team and you’re more than welcome to be part of our cross country team.’”
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