Central runners look to reach more peaks

Saturday, September 1, 2007
The Central girls cross country team includes, from left, front row: Charlotte Schaffner, Jenny Huo, Ali Yuen, Jessie Hahn and Mary Dohogne; back row: Ronny Schabbing, Rachel Burchyett, Brittany Moreland, Heather Deisher, Morganne Phillips and Tiffany Mead. (Fred Lynch)

A trip to Colorado toughens Tigers for the road ahead.

By CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Southeast Missourian

The Central girls cross country team this summer took a 1,000-mile detour west of its usual practice trails to the mountains of Colorado while training to defend its eighth-straight conference title.

"There were a lot of them who had never camped out before, so to spend a week camping out in tents was an experience," Central coach Mark Hahn said. "They only got one shower during the week and that was a lifetime experience for many of them right there."

Hahn, who visits Rocky Mountain National Park with his family almost yearly, said he has been talking about a team trip for a while and finally decided to do it.

Members of both the boys and girls teams, along with some parents, spent a week running, hiking and experiencing the simple life.

"We smelled really good," senior Jenny Huo said. "It was just so gross. My whole body was dirty. You'd have like dust rings around your ankles. You'd go hiking and then you'd have all this dust you just couldn't wash off."

The one shower came midweek when the team visited the city and used a public facility. Yet, Huo found her own method of cleanliness at the campground.

"I washed my hair in a toilet -- well, it was actually a really big toilet for flushing down food," Huo said. "It flushes all the food so [the water[']s] clean. And it's big enough where you can just stick your whole head in it."

The trip was rigorous for most the runners, who woke at 6 a.m. on most mornings and ran for two to four miles before breakfast.

"Seven was sleeping in," Hahn said.

Much of the rest of each day was spent hiking anywhere between nine to 14 miles. They would return to their camp at approximately 5 p.m. and usually be asleep by 10:30 p.m.

Hahn said the purpose of the trip was to provide his team with a lifetime experience, not provide a stronger workout.

However, many of the Tigers said it was a beneficial training experience.

"The air was so thin, it was hard to breathe," Charlotte Schaffner said. "The running was by far the hardest part, even more than the hiking, because it felt like no matter how fast you were going, you were running as hard as you could but you were barely jogging because of the lack of air.

"It just changes your mindset on things because a hard workout here is really not as hard as running there, so any time I get tired here, I just remember how hard it was there."

Hahn does have an impressive group returning this season and he believes they are talented enough to compete at the state meet.

Two all-state runners, juniors Brittany Moreland and Ronny Schabbing, will be expected to continue their dominance on the trails.

The Tigers also have a strong core of six returning seniors, led by all-conference runner Tiffany Mead. Hahn said the seniors have worked hard the past three seasons to put his team in a position to succeed at the state level.

Most of the top runners took part in the Colorado trip, which cost $301 per person. They saved money by driving their own cars and bringing food from home, like spaghetti, quesadillas and a special coach's camping casserole.

"It [the camping casserole] was a big hit," Hahn said. "Macaroni and cheese with a bunch of other stuff. You just start pouring in stuff to a big pot of macaroni and cheese."

One daytrip was to Flattop Mountain, Otis Peak and Hallet Peak, which the girls said was about 14 miles roundtrip. Many parents went along on the hikes, too.

"Everything we did was at an altitude, so a nine-mile hike on top of our morning run was like running nine miles because your breathing and heart rate was just like it would have been if you were running," said Hahn's daughter, Jessie, a member of the Central team.

Huo, who also said she felt like she was running while hiking, enjoyed the voyage up Hallet Peak best because of the sight at the top. Schaffner agreed.

"It was breathtaking, literally and figuratively, because the air was so thin," she said.

Schabbing said she enjoyed the hikes but was afraid to look down.

"All I know is that I'm scared of heights and I was the only one scared of heights," she said. "There's one where we had to climb the waterfall and I didn't like that at all. When you're climbing the waterfall, there is the waterfall and some rocks and you have to step on the rocks a little bit. I think I [looked down]."

Hahn plans to coordinate another trip to Colorado someday, but not next year. He said it took much planning.

"The absolute best part of the trip was that so many kids had a lifetime experience," Hahn said. "Our first long hike they had to climb up a bit of a waterfall to get to the lake and they said things like, 'I can't believe I just did that. I didn't think I would ever do anything like that.' Then, two days later they were on top of a couple of mountains and they said, 'Wow, this is better.'"

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