Park City seniors Annie Orr and Ali Walker dedicated more time to running so they could look past running at next week's regional trial.
Park City has had a stranglehold on the Class 3A girls cross-country title. Orr and Walker made a commitment at the end of the track season in the spring to do everything they could to continue the program's winning tradition.
They organized training runs for the team and challenged their teammates to join them on 4- to 10-mile runs during the summer. They pounded the pavement and trails around Park City to strengthen their legs, work on their form and prepare to defend their title.
"Running is all we do," Orr said. "I wanted to get faster this summer, and the only way I could do it was upping my distance."
Orr's breakout season is the result of increasing her weekly mileage total from 35 to 50. She and Walker organized a training regiment that brought the entire team into the season physically fit and ready to compete.
"It makes life so much easier when they are already fit," Park City coach Steve Cutitta said. "Instead of getting them into shape, we work on fine-tuning race strategy."
Walker and Orr were expected to run as hard as they could as freshmen to help keep the combined team score high. As seniors, they work with standouts Alyssa Snyder and Sophie McDonald to help them improve their form and conditioning.
"She is like a second coach on the team," Cutitta said about Walker. "Ali has become an advocate for her own running. She's vocal and sets the tempo for each workout."
Walker has embraced the role of a team leader and top runner, and she works with Cutitta to set the proper tempo for every workout.
"When you have a good race, you walk away with a good feeling," Walker said. "When you have a bad race, there is no better motivation."
Walker believes that 75 percent of running is mental, and Park City has the right mindset to win not just Region 10 but also the 3A state title. The Miners have trained not just for the physical pain of running, but also the pressure of big meets.
"We had the initiative all year and we're running with a purpose," Walker said. "Besides, I like the pressure. It gives us a huge adrenaline rush."
Ali Walker is being recruited at Eastern Washington, Wyoming and Colorado Mesa.
Park City will compete at Foot Locker in December.
Sophomore Alyssa Snyder posted a personal best time of 19:26.30 at the Bob Firman Invitational.