It wasn’t much of a surprise for The Classical Academy cross country coach Alan Versaw to end the season with a state championship, but the Titans team that won wouldn’t have been the one he predicted at season’s start.
After the boys won a team title in 2017 and returned 3A’s top runner in Mason Norman, Versaw, the Gazette Preps Cross Country Coach of the Year, admitted it was more likely the boys would repeat than a championship for the girls.
On the girls’ side, Peak to Peak was a “prohibitive favorite,” according to the TCA coach.
“Early in the season, the girls kinda smiled at me when I said, ‘I don’t think they’re unbeatable,’” Versaw said.
By time the 3A state championship race rolled around, the Titans were more than a legitimate contender behind solid improvement throughout the program.
“I can go right down the roster,” Versaw said. “It’s not one or two girls, it’s seven. And it probably goes beyond seven too.”
Senior Kaylee Thompson celebrated her second season running with an individual title.
“Kaylee certainly gave us a vision for excellence,” Versaw said.
Katie Flaherty, another senior, finished fifth.
“She was the heart and soul of the team,” Versaw said. “Like all the rest, she kept getting better and better, but she was one the one to keep the team enthusiastic, focused.”
Freshman Kennedy McDonald gave the Titans three runners in the top seven.
“When she showed up in the fall, she was probably our No. 5 or 6 runner,” Versaw said.
The improvements continued through Rebecca Thompson, who was ninth, in her first season running.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet that ninth place at state is a pretty good finish,” the coach said.
Sarah Burroughs, a “steady” senior, rounded out the team score by placing 14th and giving the Titans a team score of 34, some 60-plus points clear of Peak to Peak.
TCA’s boys weren’t so fortunate at state, as Peak to Peak won the title. The Titans, led by another individual win for Norman, were third, 31 points back.
“We hoped to repeat, it didn’t work out, but that’s kind of where we set our sights,” Versaw said.
“We don’t deem the season a loss if we don’t win a state title, but it’s kinda where we look.”
Versaw credited the ability to produce consistent state contenders on both sides to a culture inside the program. The coach keeps the teams together as much as possible and noted the boys and girls find a way to support one another despite the need for warm ups or cool downs during the other race.
“You can’t convince me we’re doing more effective workouts than any other team in the state,” Versaw said. “But I think we have the kind of culture that produces that kind of results.”