It's been a historic season for the Battle Mountain (CO) High girls. The Huskies qualified for Nike Cross Nationals for the first time in school history with a major win at NXR Southwest, and in doing so became one of three Colorado teams to make it to the national meet. Head coach Robert Parish has been coaching the program for 15 years and says he's been fortunate to win five state championships in Colorado -- three on the girls side, including a Class 4A title this fall, and two on the boys side. Parish's clubs have also earned 15 Western Slope League titles. This will be Battle Mountain's first appearance at NXN. We caught up with Parish before the team headed off to NXN, which will take place in Portland, Oregon, on December 2.
1. MileSplit: What was the immediate reaction upon learning your program had won NXR Southwest and had come away with a really fantastic performance against two of the state's incumbents in Mountain Vista and Broomfield?
Parish: We were excited beyond belief. We know that we are a small school from the mountains and honestly we just hoped to qualify for nationals. It was also a great sigh of relief. We had been pushing for this goal for at least a year and I think all of us would have been slightly disappointed if we had not reached it. (Mountain) Vista and Broomfield are two established and high quality programs and we have been fortunate to be able to race them a few times. We are looking forward to all three of us representing Colorado and the Southwest region at NXN.
3. Was there a poignant moment after learning of your success at NXR Southwest?
I think the moment we will all remember was when the announcer started reading off the names of the second-place team. We all expected to hear our names and it took us each a few seconds to realize the implication of him not reading our names for second place. We realized all at once that it only left one place for us to land.
4. As far as I can tell, you only lost once during the season, finishing second to Mountain Vista at Pat Patten and winning by displacement over Broomfield. What did that meet tell you about the potential of your team at that point?
We went into Pat Pattern with a goal of just being competitive with Vista and Broomfield. Considering the training system we use, we knew that if we were competitive mid-season, we could close the gap significantly by the end.
5. The St. Vrain New Balance XC Invitational was another important early season meet. But looking at your schedule and what your team was able to do, which meet or month stands out in your mind as the one where you begun to see a larger success or realize your potential as a program?
We selected St. Vrain and Pat Pattern as important measuring sticks throughout the season. Both of these meets showed us that we were on track in regards to our training and progress as we won each of them without at least one of our corps of five scorers. The state meet, however, was the biggest indication that we were poised to go big.
6. Elizabeth Constien is your team's low stick and then your second through fifth runners are typically within 30-40 seconds of each other, making a strong pack to go with a dominant runner up top. How would you characterize your team's strengths at big meets?
Actually it wasn't until the later part of the season when Constien established her herself as our clear-cut No. 1. Lizzy Harding led us for several races, as did Naomi Harding, and Alex Raichart was up front in several races as well. The emergence of Constien as a consistent low stick is one of the factors that helped us take it to the next level. We were extremely fortunate to have 15 or so top ladies who moved in and out of our varsity group all year. They seemed to revel in the inter-team competition without letting any unneeded drama get to the group. They all supported each other. Whenever one of the top dogs was out, or had a tough day, there were several Lady Huskies ready to pick up the slack. This showed in our "JV group" taking second in the small school race at NXR.
7. What sets this team apart from past teams?
That's tough. We love all of our teams, and each and every one is a hard-working, fun-loving group. This group, specifically, is obviously very talented, but they are incredibly dedicated at the same time. They have followed the plan for years and have seen incremental progress as individuals and a group every season. They are also peaking as athletes at the same time, which helps. Lastly, they are all gamers, and love to perform in the biggest moments.
8. What kinds of goals did you set at the beginning of the season? Have you met them and are you surpassing any of those goals now?
Our goals starting last season have always been to defend our Class 4A state title and then to qualify for NXN. We also set a goal of enjoying every step along the way. We've hit all of these and have enjoyed every piece of our summer training, high-altitude camp, all the training, races, and team-building throughout the year, and of course the postseason. We are closing in on a six-month training block with this crew, so enjoying all the pieces along the way has been important to staying mentally and physically fresh.
9. How have you set expectations for your group going into NXN on December 9 in Portland?
We haven't wavered from our goal of enjoying the journey and each moment. However, one of the first things that we talked about in Arizona after we qualified was going to Oregon with something to prove. In the last weeks, we've looked at all the metrics and come up with a challenging, yet appropriate individual and team goals to go hard after at NXN.
10. Two seniors graduate from this year's team, including Constien, but you have five runners back and four in the top five. Does this year's success help build momentum into next year?
It certainly does. We will miss all of the leadership of this senior group. They have done tremendously from a results perspective, but have been even more important from the leadership and culture side. However, we have a strong group of younger athletes who are hungry to keep the momentum going.