Soroco athletics to add cross-country in the fall

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— Thanks to the OK from the South Routt School Board — and a little help from an unexpected email — Soroco high schoolers will have an option outside football and volleyball to represent Rams athletics in the fall.

At Wednesday’s regular School Board meeting, the members approved a push to add boys and girls cross-country as the high school’s eighth and ninth Colorado High School Activities Association-sanctioned sport.

“It’s good for our athletes,” Soroco Athletic Director Josef Keller said Thursday. “It gives a different type of athlete an opportunity to compete for their school.”

Soroco Middle School track and field coach Callie Bradley said she and Keller have tossed around the idea of adding cross-country for more than a year. Bradley began preparing an official proposal to the School Board before the district’s February application deadline when an email popped up on Keller’s computer — a message from Dick’s Sporting Goods that was filtered into the athletic director’s junk mailbox.

The email called for applications for Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Sports Matter grant. Keller and Bradley had just two days to apply for the funding.

“I got it on a Wednesday and it was due on a Friday,” Keller said. “I handed it off to Callie and we got accepted.”

The company agreed to match up to $3,950 the team raises and is donated throughout the next five weeks. The grant also asks that some of the fundraising involve community events, such as car washes or bake sales, Keller said.

He said the target is to raise the full $3,950 for Dick’s Sporting Goods to match, but if the program falls short of that goal, he said the School Board discussed Wednesday what it might be able to do to make up the deficit. Keller and Bradley said they would rather avoid that route altogether.

“The overall thing we’d like to do this first year is not have any taxpayer commitment to it,” Keller said. “That would happen if we could raise that full amount.”

Soroco football coach David Bruner — who also coaches distance runners as the Rams’ track and field coach — said Thursday he isn’t concerned whatsoever with the possibility of an additional fall sport drawing athletes away from his roster. Every senior boy enrolled at Soroco High School in fall 2013 was on Bruner’s football squad this season.

“I don’t think it will affect us at all for football,” Bruner said. “I think it will be really good for our high school. I’m really excited about it, truthfully.”

All sides backing cross-country’s emergence into Soroco athletics cited the elementary and middle schools' prominent Girls on the Run program as well as support from elementary physical education.

Keller said first-year fundraising dollars will go primarily toward coaching compensation and travel expenses, with coaches’ pay being the highest cost. He added that the team will use the track and field uniforms in competition, saving the district money.

The Rams' cross-country coaching job opening already has been posted. Keller said the district will accept applications through the end of next week and that it is hoping to make a hire before the end of the school year at the end of May.

Bradley has stated her intent to apply for the position, and she thinks the Rams have a very real shot to make some statewide noise in the first year.

“I think the team will have a lot of kids that can compete on a really high level and make it to the state meet,” Bradley said. “That’s something to be proud of when you’re a community as small as South Routt. This was the kids’ idea.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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