Numbers way up, but only six go to cross country opener Saturday

Yuma High School cross country coach Robert Zahller said one might as well make the best of a tough situation.
“I don’t think me or (softball coach) Morgan (Spencer) want to come off as profiteers, but athletes are athletes and they want to compete,” he said earlier this week. “It’s a win for the kids, and it’s a win for us.”

The Indians open their season Saturday at the Elizabeth Invitational. Their revised season, due to this school year’s shortened-season format in Colorado thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, consists of six meets, including one on September 4 that YHS will host at Indian Hills Golf Course. There will be regional and state meets in October.
Zahller will be able to take just six boys and six girls to each meet.
He and assistant Ben Inouye will have plenty from which to choose as there are 21 out for cross country.
“I think it’s safe to say at least 12 of them are due to the other fall sports being put on hold,” Zahller said.
The coach noted the YHS teams, particularly the boys in recent years, have been competitive at the regional level, but have not been able to breakthrough to qualify for state as a team.
“This really helps us,” he said of the added student/athletes. “It’s going to be a really neat season. It’s an opportunity for kids to find the good in a bad situation.”

Members of the YHS cross country teams warm up prior to a practice earlier this week. (Courtesy Photo)

Athletic director Michael Dischner is working on trying to line up JV meets so more kids can have a chance to run in a competitive race. Yuma already has one JV meet at Wiggins on September 17.
“Instead of taking everybody at once, we’re going to have to double up on the traveling,” Zahller said.
The extra numbers means there will be competition for the six varsity spots, and the Indians will have the depth to fill spots if one of the top six cannot run for some reason.
Regular season meets are being limited to 50 runners of each gender, and the races must start in waves of 25. Zahller said starting in waves will make it more challenging to keep track of times, but said YHS is hiring a timer to work the Yuma meet.
Athletes are going to be required to have a mask at the start line. As they proceed into a part of the course where they aren’t around a mass of people, they can remove the mask, but it must be back on at the finish line.
Spectators are going to be required to wear a mask at all times. They need to social distance outside of their family units, as well.
The boys team includes Braden Smith, Jaxson Lungwitz, Javier Duran, Edgar Barragan, Blaze Brophy, Jonathan Carillo, Angel Escobar, Jaime Montanez, Jesus Ross, Yahir Trejo and Ruben Vega.
The girls team includes Shelby Blach, Hailey Eyring, Ashley Ibanez, Abril Montes de Oca, Meidi Reyes, Lea Richardson, Caddis Robinson, Nuvia Vega and Samantha Wells.
“Some kids might not have gotten a chance to try this because they like other sports, which I’m not complaining because kids involved in any sport is good,” Zahller said. “It’s just a rare situation where everybody wins.”