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Canon City freshman starts prep career with fast times
She’s yet to run a cross country race at the varsity level. Still, the arrival of Cañon City freshman Aubrey Till has taken on nearly mythical proportions.
“I heard about her for the first time last year,” Tigers senior runner Amanda Tappe said. “I was really surprised that her times were so fast, and she was only in middle school. I was in shock that someone would be going to our school that is that great of a runner.”
When Till take her first strides at 10 a.m. today at the Lori Fitzgerald Pre-State Invitational at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in Aurora, it’ll mark the start of a new era in an already decorated career, including two USATF Junior Olympic Track and Field qualifications and a 10th-place finish in the 3,000 meters as a seventh-grader.
Despite her experience, Till feels butterflies heading into her first high school race.
“I’m really excited and really nervous,” Till said. “I’m not really focused on how much younger I am, but doing my best and focusing on my times. I do have high expectations of myself to do well.”
Till, the daughter of Florence two-time Class 2A state cross country champion Calley (Nelson) Till, took top honors at the 5K on St. Patrick’s Day in downtown Colorado Springs and also at the Be Ovary Aware 5K at America the Beautiful Park, among others.
Today’s race, however, won’t afford runners a paved surface. Instead, plenty of prairie grasses, rolling hills and two ascents of the famed Powerline Climb offer quite the challenge to the more than 90 teams in all classes in this “dress rehearsal” for the state meet in the same venue Oct. 29.
Tigers coach Marcy Epperson doesn’t hesitate to throw Till into the mix of the area’s top runners.
“Just working with her, she’s very mature for her age, and she knows what it takes to be a stellar athlete,” Epperson said. “She’s running with our boys’ team, and she’s right there with them.”
Jeffry McKean hears the footsteps.
“Oh yeah, as a guy, you want to beat the girls,” the senior said. “On our hill days, she’ll catch everyone. She’s good, and she brings a lot to our team.”
Till spent the past two offseasons training with the Zoom Track Club in Lone Tree, two hours away.
And the jump to a 5K race from the middle-school distance of 3K only makes her more enthusiastic for the start of the season.
“I’m excited about high school and the longer distances,” Till said. “I don’t have the speed as much, but I can go the same pace and hold it for a long time, and I like the hills a lot.”
Still, there’s no substitute for experience. Just ask Tappe.
“I would tell all the freshmen not to go out too fast,” Tappe said. “And not to be stressed out by the herd of people at the beginning. That can be scary for a first-timer.”
Statistically, Till is a greenhorn with plenty to prove. Mentally, she exudes a whole different picture.
“She’s just a nice, humble, modest kid who’s very coachable,” Epperson said. “Already, she’s done something about raising the bar, and our other kids are following that. That’s something you don’t see in a lot of runners, especially a freshman.”