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Huston emerges as Raiders' top runner in freshman season
Cibola cross country coach Kris Norton likes to bring his freshmen runners along slowly to make sure they don't burn out before they ever get started.
He wanted to be extra careful with Monica Huston, given that she hadn't trained with the team in the summer.
But the more Huston continued to hang with the leaders every step of the way, Norton had no choice but to loosen up the reins and let his filly become the Raiders' standard bearer.
Huston capped an impressive freshman season with a ninth-place finish in the 5A-II State Championships and was named the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club's 2009 All-Region Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.
"Halfway through the season we knew she was a thoroughbred athlete," Norton said. "She was posting times that indicated she could run with top girls in the meet, but you don't want to put that pressure on them. We went in with a positive attitude and to told her to get out solid and let the race develop and have fun with it."
Huston said she planned to get involved in high school sports early, but initially chose swimming. After one practice in the pool, she rerouted her talents to the pavement and joined her brother on the cross country team.
"I did track in seventh and eighth grade ... but the idea of three miles for one race was overwhelming at first," she said. "I guess it was good that I got to build up to it doing a mile in the heat instead of five."
When Cibola's first meet came around, Huston's fears didn't get much of a chance influence her, arriving at the Padre Invite just in time to get to the start line.
"The band had a football game the night before, so I had to go up with my parents instead of the team the next day," said Huston, who plays the flute in the marching band. "I just did the best I could do at that time."
Huston's racing techniques quickly improved and moved her into the top spot on an already strong Raider team. She won the Gila Valley Region Championship meet by nearly 40 seconds, then posted a time of 20 minutes, 16.89 seconds at state, tops among all ninth-graders in the meet.
"What I found interesting was at the end of the race I threw up," she said. "I hadn't done that at any of my races, and my coach told me that's a sign that you pushed it to your limits."
Cibola will continue to be the benefactor of Huston's musical and athletic talents for the next three years, and chances she'll continue to give the Raiders good reason to sing her praises.
"She did a lot with a little bit of training, and we'll have to raise it a bit because she should be thinking about winning the individual title next year," Norton said.
Rob Weiler can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6883.