In 2008, Brayden Barrientez became a state champion. A year ago, Bryant Keirns turned in a third place performance. All along the way, the Colts team score never dipped lower than eighth.
“I’ve worked with Bryant. I’ve ran with him a couple years now. I’m hoping to be as good, if not better,” Labelle said. “We’ve just got to see how it goes.”
In his sophomore run, Labelle took 38th, posting a time just over 17 minutes.
There are runners returning that crossed the finish line with better times, but Campus head coach Russell Herman believes Labelle possesses the physical traits to match them. The puzzle piece that has yet to fit is the drive to do it.
“He’s got all the talent,” said Herman. “The thing that set Bryant apart from any other athlete I’ve been around is his work ethic. He was a self-driven athlete, and there was not a situation where I ever had to motivate him.”
Unfair as it might be for a junior, the pressure is on Labelle to not only perform for himself, but as a model for the team.
“It’s hard being a junior, but Bryant did it, and now I have to follow in his footsteps. I still try to get guidance from him,” Labelle said. “He’d always get everybody focused and everybody ready. That’s what I’ve sort of been doing before every practice, is get everybody focused.”
The Colts return Mitchell Greenlee, who finished the 6A state course in 18:09. Paul Johnson made the switch from football to cross country, and will be penciled in as the team’s No. 3.
Beyond that, questions brew. A mish mash of seniors running for the first time and underclassmen trying to temper inexperience with natural talent will vie for the fourth and fifth spots.
Making a trip to state as a team is not a guarantee for the Colts, but Labelle will not let that expectation waver.
“If we run like Campus could, then we should be a pretty decent team. – competitive,” he said. “We set that state goal every year. We’ve done it for the past – so many years now.
“We should always make it to state, at least. We’d like to win.”
Campus’ girls’ team does not have the same tradition as the boys, but that tide may be changing, as well.
Both senior Briana Binger and junior Paige Thompson return after qualifying for state individually this past season. Thompson is the school record-holder in the 4,000-meter run. Bailey Clark offers stability as a senior. Jordan Keck is trying cross country for the first time, but Herman believes she will be consistent.
That leaves the Colts searching for a fifth runner in the scorebook. Herman still sees at least a push into the upper echelon of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League.
“I see our girls making a big jump this year,” he said. “Whether or not we can compete for a girls’ championship on that side remains to be seen.”