Nike Team Nationals
Dec. 4, 2004 at Portland Meadows, Portland OR.

the Meet

Televised on Fox SportsNet Dec. 8 at 3 pm local time

on-site coverage by John & Donna Dye, Rich Gonzalez, Steve Underwood, and the NTN regional editors.

Southwest quotes - to Adam Kedge - to Mike Elder -Greg Weich - Kathy Hipwood - Alan Vraspir
Summer mileage and Kaltenbach trail blazing
are key to Smoky Hill's success

by Adam Kedge, Southwest region co-editor

Greg Weich

Smoky Hill’s coach Greg Wiech talks about the Colorado tradition, Megan Kaltenbach, and Colorado coaching legend Dr. Joe I. Vigil. Smoky Hill’s preparation for NTN and this week’s Foot Locker Championship is rooted in his summer mileage program. Sisu XC (Smoky Hill) was the highest finishing At-large team, 2nd overall. They led the SW region to the most impressive showing of all regions with 3 of the 4 girls teams in the top-6 places. Sisu XC 2nd, Kamatae XC (Fremont UT) 5th, Los Alamos XC 6th.

How did their preparation differ for NTN in comparison to their state meet?

“We trained through the state meet assuming we were going to make it (qualifying to NTN). We didn’t change much as far as preparation. We’re a 40 mile a week type of team, Katelyn Kaltenbach does a little more, we just worked the way we usually do. I think sometimes people tend to over analysis things. We couldn’t do much more than what we did, we had a couple of girls in basketball. Just getting them to get in a few 40 minute runs in the morning was enough. I figured with all the running and jumping they were doing that they’d be okay. “

You must be pleased with Katelyn return to form since her mid-season injury…

“She certainly has been coming on and feels like she is getting better and better each week.”

What were your expectations as far as performance coming into NTN?

My expectation of them was to give every ounce of individual effort for the good of the team. The athletes were motivated to beat the teams in our region, as we were an at-large coming in. Realistically, I felt we were a top-3 team at full-strength. So, I think the kids met their expectations of themselves. Congrats to Saratoga, that is the best team I have seen. We were thrilled with second. Our kids don’t like second, but they understood it was a great day for us.

How did you experience at other top notch (Great American, FL mid-West, FL Nationals, Liberty Bell) meets help you?

The experience an out-of-town meet provides is to go through the experience of being out of the daily routine. Staying in a hotel the nights previous, being on a different eating and sleeping schedule are important things to go through, not only for success at this level, but in college as well. Kids get into their “perfect” meal and sleep patterns, and sometimes it’s good for them to see that it probably doesn’t make a big difference; that they are ready to run regardless of those factors. Getting in a big meet and feeling the jitters is as close to state and National Championship-level competition as you will get. They learned a lot about sticking to their own race plans from Great American, and ran much smarter at NTN.

Colorado looks to be a state with both top notch individuals and great teams. What does CO have going right now that makes them so successful?

A tradition. Since Fairchild, Goucher, Vaughn, the Kaltenbachs, etc., the state has built something special. Those athletes, among others, have shown up-and-coming athletes what is possible in the sport. No different than Oregon, Illinois, and other states. They have had amazing, mythical athletes throughout the years, and it makes a difference. Elevation doesn’t hurt, either! But honestly, I think past athletes raise the bar. Oregon had Pre. Illinois had Virgin.

SW girls were the most impressive region this last weekend. Can you comment on why you think this is?

All three teams are at elevation, and ran pretty smart at NTN, from what I could tell. Also, success at any school from any region requires feisty, hard-working kids, and coaches that care for them. Talking to the coaches in the region, we all share that. I enjoyed getting to see the Hipwoods with their athletes, you can get a great sense that they really enjoy what they do. We are all excited for our athletes, and that is the only path to success. My old college coach, Joe Vigil, said, “How can I expect you guys to get excited about running if I’m not?”

Compare your team this fall to that of the past couple of years. Where do you think those team would have finished in a meet like this past weekends?

This team is really good. It is unfair to compare to others we have had. But, I will say that the last 3 teams here were capable of top-3 finishes nationally in those years. With Megan K, KK, and Schulz, that is a great top 3. But so was this year’s. Man, all I know is you can’t replace Megan. She has had a huge influence on my coaching, and our program. She helped her sister a lot.

Being a national power for 4 – 5 years now, what does the future hold for Smoky Hill?

I think we will continue a great tradition. It isn’t as easy as some people might think, just getting athletes out for the team. We have a lot of opportunities here athletically, and socially, just like other schools. The greatest college coach around said “A race well run is a near-death experience.” And that’s reality. But, it can be hard to sell a kid on that in high school. It’s a difficult sport. We will keep grinding away, and we have some athletes waiting to prove themselves.

How did your preparation differ than that of state or FL Midwest?

Preparation wasn’t too different. I reminded myself to keep things the same for the top 8 as for an individual who was going to FootLocker. The summer miles are EVERYTHING. We ran tired most of our competitive season, including state.

Summarize the experience your team had at NTN.

It was an amazing weekend. Nike treated the kids like Olympians. Thanks to Nike, Josh Rowe, NSSF, and our Regional Director, Mike Elder, for being the best. My athletes will never forget it. They introduced themselves to Paula Radcliffe! And got “gonged” by elite athletes during their skit. Funny stuff. Great weekend.


Kathy Hipwood, Los Alamos

Simple ABC’s: Altitude training, Bloom’s rankings, and the Cardio-respiratory system.

Los Alamos’ Kathy Hipwood knows her physiology. She finds the benefits of training at 7300 feet also comes with some drawback. She feels Marc Bloom knows what he is doing. She commends NTN for all their hard work.

What were your expectations as far as performance coming into NTN?

It was hard to know where we really stacked up against our competitors; but, in the back of our minds, we all had a goal of improving on our ranking and representing our state and region in a respectable fashion. We also wanted to fair well against schools we saw at Jim Danner. We feel good about what the girls accomplished.

How did you experience at the Jim Danner Invitational benefit you?

The experience was truly invaluable. In New Mexico, there are great runners, but the fields don’t have the same depth and the races have a completely different feel to them. Some of our kids who are used to being among the front-runners have to get used to being a part of a large pack. Sr. Anna Miller told us on the way home that in all of the times we have traveled to more competitive meets (Foot Locker, Danner, Arcadia, Border Wars…), that this was the first time she has felt comfortable and in control. So, the experience definitely paid off for her.

SW girls were the most impressive region this last weekend. Can you comment on why you think this is?

It is hard to say for sure, but very rewarding and encouraging. Because of the conditions, we felt the race was strength oriented, so possibly training at altitude paid off in the end.

Compare your team this fall to that of the past couple of years (2002 as high as #2, 2003 as high as #1).

We talked about this after the race and came away feeling that, when all was said and done, Marc Bloom had us pegged correctly over the past few years. We feel that that the 2002 group, which also included Brittany Somers and FL Finalist Heather Wood (along with Kristen Hemphill, Marisa Sandoval, and Anna Miller) was the strongest team we have had, was deserving of its 2nd in the nation ranking and would have challenged for a national title that year.

Of course, comparing the 2003 squad to this year’s squad is more difficult. In retrospect, we feel that the 2003 squad with Heather Wood proved to be a bit stronger. They started the season ranked 1st in the country and that didn’t turn out to be the case, but when they were “on”, they were among the best. This year, we finished 6th without Lahni Epperson (our 5th girl the final three meets), so we conclude the season feeling that we are ultimately stronger than the 13th ranking, but not quite where we were the past two years. But, the girls worked hard, performed when they needed to and a few had to work through some physical setbacks. We are extremely proud of them.

Being a national power for 4 – 5 years now, what does the future hold for Los Alamos?

We definitely face some changes for next year, as 4 of our top 5 and 6 of our top 10 are seniors. Of course, it is hard to say goodbye to this incredible group; but, at the same time, we look forward to what the future holds for them and for the younger kids who will step up and be the make-up of our team. It is a new, different kind of challenge.

Also, we feel that our boys were deserving of their rankings this season and would have represented the Southwest quite well at NTN. Although we lose Finn Yarbrough and Ben Willms, our top three for most of the season return and others are motivated to move up.

How did your preparation differ than that of state or FL West?

We didn’t make drastic changes between state and NTN, but rather tried to gradually implement some changes throughout the entire season. We were hesitant to change too much because our priority was still the state meet and things worked nicely last season. Racing at sea level is different in that it requires the athletes to maintain a higher level of intensity throughout and just strength/endurance alone isn’t enough. So, we included more reps of a shorter distance that would allow them to train at faster than race pace (particularly altitude race pace). We also sought out some flatter or even slightly downhill runs to help improve their sustained leg turnover.

What are the unique challenges or circumstances you have to face being from high altitude?

We often get asked about how we benefit from training at altitude and we know that we do, particularly for racing in New Mexico. However, there are some things to overcome as well. An athlete training at sea level trains at a faster pace daily, so we have to find ways to simulate that if we are going to race at sea level. Not only are we at 7200 ft, but our terrain is very hilly as well. So, our runners develop great endurance strength, but can’t always get the same leg turnover or work on economy at sea level paces. As I said above, we included some downhill running and more work at faster than race pace.

Because of the increased cardiorespiratory demands at altitude, true recovery time is increased as well. So balancing the need for intensity with the need for additional recovery becomes challenging, and we have to be careful to prevent our athletes from getting into an over-trained state. This goes for overall mileage also. We have found that when we try to bump up their mileage to levels that wouldn’t seem like too much, it can be counterproductive. It is a fine line.

Another issue that arises more often than we would like is that of low iron stores in our athletes, particularly the girls. If our athletes (boys and girls) don’t supplement, as well as some who do, they risk developing low stores. Over and over, we have seen athletes with low iron stores, but normal hemoglobin and hematocrit, have declines in performance. At altitude, the physiological demands are greater and that is amplified even more with our hills. The increased red blood cell/hemoglobin production may leave them short on iron for other metabolic needs.

Summarize the experience your team had at NTN.

We cannot say enough what a positive experience NTN was. The kids came home feeling successful and inspired. Some teams seemed to take the approach of not getting “caught up” in the hoopla and focusing only on the race, but we feel that our girls managed to balance everything well. The people assisting the athletes and coaches were phenomenal. We are very grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience NTN.


Alan Vraspir, Albuquerque Academy coach

After moving up in the SW region from #5 to #2 on the strong performance at state Charger XC continued to improve late in the year. Charger XC entered NTN with a #14 national ranking and finished 10th. Their 1-5 pack time of :20 seconds was tops in the meet.

What were your expectations going into NTN?

“We hoped to finish in the top-10. Our goal was to represent our school (Albuquerque Academy), the state of New Mexico, and the Southwest Region well. “

How did your preparation differ from the weeks leading up to your state meet?

“We followed the same basic approach as we did while preparing for state. Our last 4 week mirrored the 4 weeks leading up to state.”

How would your preparation differ from what you would do to your team ready for the Foot Locker West region?

“Because it is a team effort we continued to concentrate on working as a team. Instead of each runner being able to focus on their own personal race they must be accountable to their teammates. That accountability to each other made it easier to have quality workout without the worry of someone slacking off. It carries over to racing too. In a team race the individuals cannot take the same risks as they may be able to when running for themselves, they need to protect their position.”

With a long history of success and a berth in the first ever NTN where does Albuquerque Academy cross-country go from here?

“Next fall we would like to continue our tradition and win another state championship (6 titles in 7 years). If we do that we should be considered for another NTN bid. If we are able to return to NTN we’d like to make it up to the podium (top 4).”


by Mike Elder, Southwest region co-editor

Susi XC Club (Smoky Hill Aurora CO) -- Second Place (My observations)
They started the season as one of the top contenders along with the returning national individual champion. The outlook seemed very bright, that was until Katelyn Kaltenbach went down with a foot injury early in the season. The depth of this team carried them well until the final week that selection would be made for automatic bids. They had been delegated to the at-large category of team selection. For a team of this calibre, nothing could be more frustrating. But coach Greg Weich had nothing but confidence. Knowing that Kinetic XC Club was the class act, Weich was convinced that his team was the next best. But by this time they would at best be the 17th team extended an invitation. Which is indeed what took place. A little more than a month after they finished their season, Katlenbach returned by finishing fifth at Footlocker Regional and earning a trip to defend her title as national champ.

Katamea (Fremont Plain City UT ) -- Fifth Place (My observations)
Selected as an at-large bid after winning the Utah State Meet. Was passed over in the first two rounds of at-large selections. This left very little hope in making the trip to Portland. After running their state meet on October 20th, hanging on and trying to train the girls from Katamea kept doing what they did all year... train, train, train. Ten days before the race in Portland, they were extended the at-large bid and coach Amber Tingley expressed her delight and said the girls would be excited and ready to run. Most of this team is from a rural area of Utah and they really are "farmers' daughters." A 5th place finish in a field as tough as was assembled surprised many, including their coach.

Los Alamos XC Club (Los Alamos NM) --Sixth Place
"We [Ron and Kathy Hipwood] are all very pleased with the sixth place finish.  Even with a few teams missing, it was a significant improvement over our most recent ranking of 13th.  Kristen Hemphill (sr) and Marisa Sandoval (sr) had solid performances to lead the team and the gap between those two was as small as it has been all year.  We feel that our 3rd and 4th place runners, Anna Miller (sr) and Megan Stockton (fr) had their best races of the season and were the key to us outdoing our ranking.  Both worked through some setbacks admirably this year and really helped the team at NTN.  They executed the things we talked about the night before (after we previewed the course) perfectly.  We advised the runners to have a strong start, but to not overdo it because the conditions of the course could catch up on runners who went out too fast.  Then we said to gain momentum each kilometer and if you review their places/splits, they did a wonderful job.  Without our fifth girl from the last three meets of our regular season (Lahni Epperson - sr, varsity basketball player), Lora Chastain (sr) stepped in and had a very respectable performance.  She was our first alternate for the state championships, so it was great for her to get the opportunity to score for the team at the national meet. In addition, Megan Stockton, our #4 girl, was the 2nd highest finishing #4 girl behind Saratoga's!"

South Lake Tahoe--17th Place (My observations and from the "Tahoe Daily Tribune")
On Thursday night, our #1 runner came down with a stomach virus of an unknown variety so needless to say was under the weather. Coach Wilvers kept it all in perspective and could only hope that their depth would carry them through. But when lose your #1, it's just too hard to have your #6 replace your #1 -- especially in a national championship. Despite bettering their national ranking from Harrier Magazine by one spot, the disappointment partly stemmed from the Vikings' aspirations to finish among the top-10 teams and knowing they had run better earlier in their prolific season.

"These girls ran their hearts out, but they didn't have the gas," said STHS first-year coach Dan Wilvers. "We were in the ninth spot (early in the race) and we were set to run our race, but we just didn't have the (energy)." Freshman Jordan Dalton said, "I just wanted to be better. Not all of us ran our best races and I just wanted us all to do that." Boys' coach Dominique Westlake, who paced the team through many of its workouts, saw no reason for the girls to be disappointed. "You have to realize the level of competition and if you stumble just a little bit there will be two, three, four or five girls there to take your place," Westlake said. "They can't be ashamed of what they did, because they gave it everything they could possibly give."


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