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Valor High School girls cross country team achieves national goal

By Steve Whitlock; photo courtesy of Parker Dragovich

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Pictured left to right: Reese Dragovich (CP), Taylor Whitfield, Isabella Prosceno, Bri Teegarden, Ashley Jones (CP) and not pictured: Brooke Wilson and Lanie Szuch.

The Valor High School girls cross country team placed eighth in the nation at the Nike Cross Nationals. Going in, they were ranked 17th. Race day was very wet, muddy, and cold. While the girls are acclimated to Colorado weather, the conditions in Portland were unlike anything they had experienced. They ran hard and achieved a far greater placement than many thought possible.

Reese Dragovich and Ashley Jones, both Castle Pines residents, contributed greatly to the success of the Valor team.

Reese said, “I discovered running in seventh grade when my cousin, Taylor Whitfield, who is also on our cross country team asked me to try track with her. I fell in love with the purity of the sport and the team, which is unlike any other team I have ever competed on. Running is the only sport that allows you to push yourself to your limit without any help from fancy equipment or halftimes, and this intensity and purity is what drew me in.”

She also pointed to their coach for the team’s success. “Our mentor this cross country season, and the best encourager to our team and to me individually, is our coach Greg Coplen. He believes in us when we don’t believe in ourselves, pushes us to do our best and is always there to support us and encourage us in everything we do – whether it’s running or academics or anything else in life. His passion for the sport and for his faith has brought us through many hard workouts and many hard seasons of life, and we wouldn’t have achieved anything this season without him.”

Regarding a favorite memory, Reese said, “The best part of nationals was the night before the race when we all came together as a team and talked about the season and why we were thankful for each other. This was a highlight of our preparation for nationals and of our season as a whole. We were full of gratitude for our team, our sport and the opportunities we have been given. Everything that happened this season was a tribute to our team and our Savior, and we couldn’t be prouder to wear the ‘V’ on our chest.”

Ashley added, “Something very special about this team is we all encourage each other through different days and weeks. We know each other so well; like sisters we know how to support one another on good and bad days. We encourage each other while also pushing each other to work harder, run faster and care deeply for one another, even when it is hard or uncomfortable.”

She went on to say, “Through this sport and team I have experienced so much joy and happiness because of the trust that has built between me and my teammates. In setting goals for the season and for each other, we have to trust that everyone is going to give their 100% effort at every practice and competition.”

Ashley also pointed to faith as a central factor to their success, “This season, as a team, we have been very intentional about caring about the legacy we want to leave for future generations of Valor cross country athletes and cross country athletes in general, when they hear about our team. We have been purposeful in loving each other well and being intentional in being grateful for our current situations, past and future aspirations.

In ‘Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing’, we have kept the Lord at the center of all of our endeavors and giving Him thanks for all the highs and lows. As a team we want to be known as a group of girls who believed in one another and even as the odds were against us, worked hard and invested in the progress of each other as athletes and sisters in Christ.”

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