As I pulled the mini-bus into the parking area for the Salida Cross Country Classic, the first thing catching my eye was a huge limo bus with tinted windows. I wondered if Mumford and Sons had gotten lost, but then the team from Regis Jesuit, a 5A Denver school clambered out of the luxury ride.
About 40 of them. And maybe more coaches than I have athletes on my boys team.
None of these coaches appeared to be the driver.
The Salida course, held on Vandaveer Ranch, is a favorite among athletes and coaches, and the meet is organized by venerable and well-liked coach Kenny Wilcox. At moderately high altitude of 6,500 feet, it includes a downhill start on grass, a foot path with gradual grades up and down, and very steep but relatively short hill in mile 2 that is the predominant feature on the course. This year’s edition also featured a water crossing.
It’s amusing for me to remember that in 2016 I saw Mumford and Sons perform on stage in the middle of this sticker field right about where the starting line to the race is.
With the panoramic mountain views in all directions it’s easy to see why a team like Regis, would travel up from Denver to run.
As the coach of a small 2A team I didn’t have any great expectations for my kids to place, especially considering the big 3A team from Salida on their home course, not to mention squads from regional rivals Rock Ford and Buena Vista. But I didn’t count on that many kids from a wealthy Denver private school finishing ahead of them.
My son, The Blur was our fastest runner and top boy, placing 52nd. Our top girl, Laurel Zeller placed 20th. Fully 15 boys from Regis placed ahead of Harrison, and nine girls ahead of Laurel. For both, the bulk of the other runners ahead of them were from Salida, Buena Vista and nearby Gunnison, which all have outstanding running programs.
Is this fair? The only answer of course is that sport reflects life. And life isn’t always fair. Plus, perhaps we’re having more fun.
The Blur? He doesn’t care about any of this and just went out and ran his best on the tough course. But then, I suppose we are privileged in a different way, with a family-atmosphere team, our native training environment, and the individualized approach I am able to bring to coaching such a small squad.
As we were leaving we spoke with the driver of the fancy Regis bus. Turns out it was a charter, costing $2,000 a day. I later looked up tuition for Regis and it is over $19,000 per year.
As I walked away, I pointed out our bus, which we affectionately refer to as “The Mini,” to the driver. “That’s the bus I drive. . . . And I’m the coach, too.”
He just laughed.
I don’t know why. He still had to drive a busload of privileged kids all the way back to Denver.