Cross Country Takes on the Conifer Climb

In their first meet of the season Conifer Cross Country takes on the D’Evelyn Jaguars


Maya Dawson

Freshman Nolan Schwemlein (right) races a D’Evelyn runner to the finish of the Conifer Climb. Schwemlein’s final time was 23:41.

     Most Cross Country meets are down in town, a safe distance from the towering mountains that Conifer students call home. This morning, however, Conifer’s boys and girls Cross Country team gathered at the school’s baseball field for only the third home Cross Country meet in Conifer history, where they faced the D’Evelyn Jaguars.

Smoke hangs in the air from the starting gun as the girls set off on the Conifer Climb course. “It really helps me to remember that it’s going to be over soon,” junior Joelle Wageman said. “Like, I can do this for seven more minutes.” (Graciela Fischer)

     The girls team lost the tiebreaker for the meet but the boy’s team won. Junior Patrick Doty placed first, with a time of 18:12 for the 3.1 mile course, which was the steepest terrain the team will face all season. 

     “It’s my first win in high school,” Doty said. “It feels pretty good to join the win club.”

     Conifer boys also took second and third place thanks to Issac VanWestrienen with a time of 19:11 and Wyatt Bly at 19:59. Conifer runners took seven out of the top nine places, which gives the team hope as they recover from the graduation of several prominent seniors, including Zack Gacnik.

     “We’ve got a lot of young guys but they finished ahead of D’Evelyn’s equivalent runners, so I’m pretty happy,” the boy’s Head Coach Brian Stotts said.

Junior Rhys Hanson reaches the last mile of the course, a set of downhill switchbacks that lead to the baseball field. (Maya Dawson)

     Though the girls lost as a team, Conifer’s Joelle Wageman, a junior, and sophomore Audrey VanWestrienen placed first and second respectively in the race, both with a time of 22:45.

     “Having Joelle there really helps because then I can chase her and we can work off of each other,” VanWestrienen said.

     Conifer’s success this morning was no accident. Both the girls and boys train at least six days a week, blending speed work, long runs, and recovery runs to increase their speed and endurance. At this race it was easy to see their work paying off.

     “To tie D’Evelyn is always a good indicator of how well you’re going to do in the season,” Stotts said. 

     When not running, the team has been working equally hard to rebuild a sense of community that was difficult to maintain during the COVID-19 pandemic last season.


Sophmore Audrey VanWestrienen (left) and junior Joelle Wageman near the end of the first mile of the Conifer Climb course. “I knew that Audrey was right behind me so I wanted to stick with her as best I could,” Wageman said. (Graciela Fischer)

     “I used to run because it was a good workout, but now I run because the girls on this team are amazing,” senior Alexis Hall who came in 4th place with a time of 25:30 said.

     The team will race again next Saturday at D’Evelyn High School where they will face the Jaguars again in addition to a handful of other 4a schools.

     “It’s nice to start out with a small meet like this,” Stotts said. “It gives kids an opportunity to figure out what it’s all about without the stress of one of those huge meets, so maybe we’ll keep doing it.”