By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A couple weeks ago the Stillwater High School cross country teams struggled in the Cowboy Jamboree, with the men finishing 20th and the women finishing 26th.
But with those struggles came a much-needed learning experience — something Stillwater coach Dan Zeroski hopes pays off as the Pioneers host Enid and Ponca City on the same course that hosted the jamboree.
“We know that course and we train on that course,” Zeroski said. “That gives us an advantage. Being a hilly, tough course, training on a course like that can give you a big advantage.”
Stillwater may have the advantage when it comes to knowing the course, but Stillwater will be without several members of its varsity squad — including Sam Smith, who injured his toe on the first hill in the jamboree.
“Sam won’t be running for another week or so,” Zeroski said. “We’re actually not running our top three runners (Tuesday) because we want them to focus on the Chili Pepper Invitational on Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark. It’s just going to be a good, hard training race.”
The Pioneers and Lady Pioneers may not have an entire varsity team suited up for the race, but Zeroski said that doesn’t mean Stillwater doesn’t expect to be competitive.
Instead, Zeroski is hoping that some of the younger runners will step up to fill the voids while possibly trying to earn a spot on the varsity roster in the final few weeks.
“We’ll have our varsity pull back a little bit, but for the rest of those guys, this will be one of their last meets,” Zeroski said. “You can only take you’re top seven men and top seven women to regionals, so this is an opportunity for them to show us what they’re capable of.”
Having already faced Ponca City and Enid in several meets earlier in the year, Zeroski isn’t as concerned about how his team stacks up. He’s more concerned about getting a quality runs out of his athletes.
“We don’t put that much emphasis on this meet because there’s only three teams,” Zeroski said. “We just want the kids to go out, run well and get a good quality workout. Enid should win the women’s race pretty easily, but we should win the men’s side.”
With regionals a few weeks away, Zeroski said that Tuesday’s meet and the Chili Pepper Invitational will be the building block for Stillwater’s preparation for regionals.
“Each week our times have to keep coming down,” Zeroski said. “If not, other teams’ are so we have to be matching them each week. We ran well at Edmond on Friday, so we’re hoping to keep building momentum for regionals and state.”