New XC coach plans to push Ignacio’s pace

Seen at the Ignacio High School track earlier this month, Karri McCarter is set to direct IHS Cross-Country this fall season.
Seen coaching distance runners during Ignacio’s Spring 2022 track-and-field season, veteran cross-country skipper Daniel Holley has stepped aside after three seasons leading and developing IHS’ harriers.
Still bearded as the Fall 2021 season came to a close, head coach Daniel Holley has stepped aside after three seasons leading IHS Cross-Country.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

McCarter to build upon Holley-laid foundation

Whether it was analysis of a high jumper’s run-up to the bar, or a hurdler’s stride length, or even a javelin thrower’s hip turn and launch angle, the quartet listening to Karri McCarter’s comments Friday, July 8, at Ignacio High School may have been small, but was most definitely talented.

Former Bayfield standout Jordan Lanning, now competing for Colorado State University and on the mend from injury, was present at the informal, off-season track-and-field instruction session, as was BHS product Amber Johnson (Fort Lewis College/University of Northern Colorado), 2022 Montezuma-Cortez graduate Avery Wright (a Colorado School of Mines commit), and even one Audrey Toppin, an eighth-grader this fall at Durango’s Escalante Middle School.

“If it’s not technically perfect – from form to splits – then you’re not going to be the best you can be,” McCarter said, while observing Johnson, her stepdaughter, end the morning running three 200-meter sprints and eventually cutting four total seconds off her initial time. “That also keeps us healthy … very little injuries, and that’s a good thing.”

Certain to aid IHS in track next spring, McCarter’s expertise, combined with knowledge of the area and its athletes, made her the leading – and since-secured – candidate to replace a relocating Daniel Holley as Bobcat Cross-Country’s newest head coach.

“I’ve been looking into doing something where I can run my own program, so I applied for the position and got it!” said McCarter. “And it’s exciting; when Amber ran cross-country, (Ignacio) kids had to run for Bayfield, so it’s really nice that they have their own program now.”

“But I don’t think that I really knew that I did like coaching, until Amber,” she continued with a grin. “I’ve been a competitive athlete my whole life, and this gives me the opportunity to still be involved with that.”

“I know how good cross-country could be for me, in my personal life and things like that,” said Holley, now residing in Birmingham, Ala., and set to teach fifth grade not ten miles south at Vestavia Hills Elementary-Liberty Park, “and I feel I was able to take cross-country from an unheard-of sport among the student body to ‘Hey, we know what cross-country is!’”

“Ultimately, I had a different course in life come my way as far as growing up and starting a family, getting married … . And I feel like when you’re raising a family you need a good support system around you, and distance doesn’t help when it comes to that,” he continued. “So I made a life change to be closer to family, to the gal I was dating – we’re engaged now; I (recently) proposed in Aruba – and I just felt like now’s the best time to make that move.”

Now the program’s third skipper since its 2018 girls-only rebirth, and with plenty of co-ed talent potentially returning, McCarter conceded that her new role this fall may require some on-the-job training. But she indicated she won’t shy from it, either.

“Everybody knows me through track, not necessarily cross-country,” she admitted. “But a kid who moved here this past year – a freshman at Durango who came from Atlanta – and contacted me through USA Track & Field. His name is Luke Swenk, and … I realized ‘I have a really talented young man here.’ I needed to up my greatness as a distance coach to meet his.”

“So I … got my specialist training in cross-country through USA Track & Field, and that worked out well for here,” McCarter continued. “I think (Ignacio’s) built a really nice footing for our program, and now it’s just baby-sitting what they’ve started and growing it.”

“You know, I really hope so,” Holley stated. “I feel like whenever you take on a responsibility like that you hope that you can leave something behind, that somebody else can inherit and improve upon.”

“So, I think if they’ll put their trust in her,” he added, “and what she has to offer – it’ll be totally different from me, just because no two people are the same – and embrace that change, I think they really could have some spectacular years.”

“The ‘macro’ plan is set up for the entire season already, and we’ve started using it for the kids who are out here,” said McCarter, saluting her harriers willing to start getting in shape for the 2022 grind. “I have all kinds of things lined up … one-mile, two-mile, long runs, and they’ll all be done and ran differently. There’ll be acceleration runs, there’ll be tempo runs, intervals … and we’ll do a lot of track work because this is where we’re going to learn our pace.”

“Also, the Casino’s agreed to let us run on their grass, all around the Casino, and set up a course there once a week to train,” she continued. “Cross-country’s about all kinds of different surfaces and if you don’t train to run on those surfaces, if you don’t train to run uphill or downhill, then they won’t know how. So we have all those kinds of runs set up.”

“We’re ready to roll,” she emphasized. “We have all kinds of different workouts set up; we’re excited to get started!”

“She’s been doing this for a lot longer than I have, and knows how to do it,” declared Holley, who guided IHS Cross-Country the past three seasons after replacing Marissa Duffey. “I feel like Ignacio made a great hire with Coach McCarter.”

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