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In what was supposed to be just a “training run” at altitude for the Sedona Red Rock cross-country team at the Four Corners Invitational in Flagstaff, several Scorpions runners achieved personal records, and nearly all got a boost to their self-confidence.

Natalie Cox sprints out from the starting line at the Four Corners Invitational at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff.“It was beyond my expectations,” said Scorpions cross-country coach John Ortiz. “We were really trying to bring the young ones up ... because we need them for qualifying for state, boys and girls, and right now they’re right on track.”

Despite instructions to keep an easy pace in the early part of the race, Scorpions junior Natalie Cox accelerated late to finish in 20 minutes, 40.8 seconds to earn a medal for 23rd place in the 187-runner girls varsity race.

And Cox said the 7,000-foot altitude at Flagstaff’s Buffalo Park never really affected her.

“We were supposed to run the first mile slower, so it wasn’t as fast as the normal times that I run,” Cox said. “So in the end, I felt like I had more energy.”

Senior Sammie Cox finished 40th in 21:20 while junior Tia Myers finished 51st [21:47.8], freshman Kelly Vergara finished 130th [24:18.8] and junior Isidora Nera finished 149th [25:04.5].

Ortiz said he had told the girls to run the first mile of the race in eight minutes, and then build up speed from there.

“When she came through with about a mile to go she was [in 32nd place], and I was like ‘wow!’” Ortiz said. “I almost feel like I should have let them run today.”

The strategy for the Scorpions boys team was for freshman Luke Doerner to run the first part of the race with senior Travis Okie, and for freshman Joe Glomski to run with junior Kevin Alvarez. The strategy worked, as Doerner finished the race in 18:27.7 while Glomski’s time was 20:14.7 — both personal records.

“I ran with Luke and Kevin ran with Joe to help them get out and on the race pace and get them competing early,” said Okie, who ran the final mile in 5:10 to finish in 17:34.7 — good enough for 30th place out of 211 runners in the boys varsity race. “Now I just need the speed to get out faster because I’ve proved to myself I’m strong enough to finish.”

Despite doing a training run in Flagstaff over the summer, Doerner said the altitude change definitely made a difference.
“[Okie] was trying a confidence builder the whole time,” Doerner said. “I tried to keep up with him for the last mile, but it’s really difficult.”

Alvarez, who was unhappy with his race at Prescott the previous Saturday, finished in 103rd place with a time of 18:54.3 and said he was much happier with his own race, and also for Glomski.

“The plan was to help [Glomski] out — and he did it, he ran well,” Alvarez said. “[Glomski] ran 20:14, and his last race was 20:50, so it helped him out a lot. And I just took off after that. So I was happy because I know I could have run better, but it was a confidence builder for me.”

Glomski said he felt he could have started the race faster.

“I didn’t go out as hard as I thought I could,” Glomski said. “I had moments of calm where I thought I could breathe just fine. It was like a jog, but I’m still going at race pace.”

Scorpions sophomore Denny Drotzman finished in 191st place [21:20.9] while junior Christian Vergara finished 203rd [22:11.5], freshman Nicholas Malmgren finished 209th [25:24.8] and sophomore Brian Vergara finished 210th [26:53.7].

The Scorpions are looking forward to traveling down the hill for a low-elevation cross-country meet today in the Valley Christian Invitational at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, and Ortiz said he thinks running in the Four Corners Invitational in Flagstaff will help his teams.

“We’re trying to hit our targets. Wednesday is going to be interesting,” Ortiz said. “We’re going to try and place really high in that meet.”

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 25, issue of the Sedona Red Rock News.

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