Tuesday Jul 28 2009
Hillmen’s success forged on the hot trails
By: Dave Krizman Journal Sports Columnist
For most runners, the thought of working out in our oppressive July heat would send one scurrying to the nearest air-conditioned room. If, however, you are a Placer High cross country runner, the heat only adds to the daily challenge. These runners do their thing in intense heat. They run down the American River Canyon… and then up… up… up the canyon. They run at cardiac-arrest inducing speed for the sheer love of this addictive sport. Placer’s head coach, Randall Fee, glows when he discusses his team, their workout schedule, and their commitment. “We met in late May to go over the summer schedule,” Fee said. “We start off at about 20 miles per week and we keep increasing the mileage. By the end of July, the runners are putting in almost 40 miles per week. By the end of summer training, the runners will have put in 300 quality miles.” Far more impressive than the previously mentioned numbers is the turnout for a sport that receives little to no coverage, and whose sport takes place in the bowels of the American River Canyon, far from the eyes of parents or friends. “We have 55 runners on the team as of right now, and I am hoping to have 60 by the time school starts,” Fee said. These are staggering numbers, comparable to a wildly successful varsity football team. Much of the credit for the popularity of this sport on campus is Fee’s enthusiasm. A master motivator of teenager runners, Fee encourages all his runners to enjoy the Zen-like feeling and enjoy the matchless beauty of running in the canyon. Leading this pack of runners is senior Shannon Harcus, the defending CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV champion. Already being actively recruited by Cal Poly, Nevada, Cal, Long Beach State and Sacramento State, Harcus is undecided about her future plans. “I just don’t know where I want to go to school right now. I’ll just wait and see” Harcus said. Modest to a fault, she does not see herself as the leader of the team. “I feel like I should lead the team in workouts, but there is no set leader” she said. Harcus will have no problems meeting the academic requirements of these institutions. She has a 4.3 GPA heading into her senior year. Fee has high praise for Harcus. “When I give her a workout schedule, she does it to the best of her ability,” the coach said. “Her work ethic and natural athleticism make her a successful high school runner and she will be a successful college runner.” Fee also mentioned seniors Gordan Sproul and Nicole Hillstead. “Gordan has improved every year,” Fee said. “He wants to improve with every run. He is a smart runner who hopes to attend Cal after graduating.” “Nicole’s goal is to make the top seven runners. She is right on the bubble, but her dedication will make her goal a reality.” Only the top seven runners on any team compete in meets. While Harcus runs to win, most of the other 55 runners run for far different reasons. According to Fee, there are generally three types of runners on the team. “The first groups are the lead runners, like Shannon and Gordan,” Fee said. “These are excellent athletes who are built for running. They have excellent aerobic turnover. They are able to quickly convert their oxygen into their blood. The second group of runners are good athletes who work hard, and the third groups of runners are those who may not have the talent but are on the team for fitness reasons. All three types of runners share one thing in common, and that is the camaraderie and socializing while running on the trails.” Placer’s success in cross country is unmatched. The girls were state champions in 2004, and according to Fee a “special group of girls.” In 2002 they were tied for second in the state and were third in the state in 2003. Fee has high hopes for this year’s version as they finish their punishing summer training this week.