Soroco cross country embraces second-season success, larger team
Oak Creek — There is a chance that, someday, Soroco High School sophomore Ben Kelley will be remembered as the first great runner in the history of Rams’ cross country. It was Kelley, along with then-senior Lenexa Cole, who helped start the program from scratch a season ago.
Now in its second season, both under coach Callie Bradley, Soroco cross country has grown from two runners a year ago to five this season, with Kelley’s talent and dedication leading the charge.
“I really think we are starting to actually build a program here that’s going to last. It’s a whole different dynamic from last year,” Kelley said. “These guys are all really young and not really experienced at running, but honestly they’ve put in a lot of hard work this year and they are really good. I’m really proud of the progress they have made.”
Kelley and Cole both qualified for the 2A state meet in the program’s inaugural season, Kelley taking 21st in the boys’ race and Cole 46th in the girls’ race. As a sophomore, Kelley is the most experienced runner for the Rams this fall, the other four members all being freshmen.
Joshua Taing ran with Kelley in middle school, while Brad Veilleux and Grant Redmond are both new to long-distance running. Brad’s sister, Chloe, is the only girl on the team this season, but is making the most of it.
“The guys, they help me out warming up and stuff and run with me and support me in the warm ups,” she said. “But running in the race, I kind of wish I had someone else with me. Because I hear other girls on other teams supporting each other in the race.”
However, support system or not, Chloe Veilleux has emerged as one of the top female runners in the state, ranking inside the top 10 in 2A. Her most recent accomplishment came Friday, when she won the girls’ race at the Grand Junction Invitational, completing the 5-kilometer course in 20 minutes, 46.20 seconds.
Kelley took second in the boys’ side of that race with a time of 17:02.70, less than a second behind race winner Nicholas Duncan, of Grand Junction. Taing finished 33rd, Brad Veilleux 35th and Redmond 37th.
“Going from nothing to something is hard. Going from nothing to trying to get in shape for running a good 5K is harder. They’ve really just made great strides, no pun intended,” said Bradley, a former runner at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. “I was a little worried in the beginning that might lead to being disgruntled, but it hasn’t. They’ve kept a good attitude about it.”
Bradley, a two-time Steamboat Marathon winner, has lived in the Yampa Valley since 2011, having moved from Leadville. She got involved with the South Routt school system primarily through coaching middle school track. The middle school had a talented group of distance runners in track and field, and from this the idea of creating a cross country program at the high school level was born.
Bradley and Soroco got everything rolling in January 2014, and thanks to a matching grant from Dick’s Sporting Goods, through its Sports Matter program, and a big donation from Asics, the Rams were able to field their two-person team last fall.
“That grant has actually lasted two years, because the team was small enough we didn’t have to hire a bus driver. I just drove to the meets,” Bradley said. “Those guys were troopers last year. They were the only two and they were a lot of fun. These guys keep me on my toes. They are quick, both on their feet and with a quick comeback. So they are a lot of fun and they work hard.”
Friday’s meet at Grand Junction was the final of the regular season for the Rams. Next is the regional meet in Delta this week, where Kelley and Chloe Veilleux will be among the favorites to win their respective races. Entering last weekend, Kelley was ranked sixth in 2A.
Despite this, nobody on the team seems to be putting any pressure on him or herself, including Kelley. Needing only an average race, respectively, to qualify for state, Kelley is just having fun with his team, a luxury he didn’t have a year ago.
“It really helps having a team and people to push you,” Kelley said. “I’m still pretty young. More self-pressure I think. I just want to get there and do what it takes. … I’m just going toward it with an open mind.”
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