We visited Crater High School in Central Point, OR on a Friday evening. They ran their longer workout in the morning and the plan was an easy run to an athlete’s backyard for a dip in the pool and run back to school.
Under Coach Justin Loftus, Crater has enjoyed enormous success with the boys winning the 2022 5A Oregon State XC championship and the girls finished second in the 5A race. For the boy’s, the 2022 victory was the tenth Oregon state cross country title in Coach Loftus’ career. The boys finished fourth at NXN in 2022.
Graduating senior Tyrone Gorze of Crater in the fall won the prestigious Woodbridge Invitational, 5A Oregon Cross Country individual title (setting the 5A state course record) and finished third at NXN. In the spring, Gorze broke the national high school 5000-meter indoor record at the New Balance Indoor Nationals. He also won the 5A track state meet 3000-meter race in a time of 8:04.60 which places him second all-time in Oregon in between Galen Rupp and Steve Prefontaine. Gorze will run for Washington in the fall.
Coach Loftus explained the summer program for Crater.
How often do you practice in the summer?
We meet here at school three to four times a week.
Does the team go to a camp?
We have done multiple camps through the years . . . all awesome camps like Steens and then we went to Flathead, Montana and did the Montana camp for five or six years. We actually had a Sun River camp that we did for ourselves for a while. Now we go to Ultimook Camp and that is an easy camp for us to go to. Ultimook is amazing! We used to run at Lake of the Woods, and it used to be with Ashland for the first fifteen years of my coaching when Bob Julian was the coach there.
How did you build the culture here at Crater?
It wasn’t like this a couple of years ago. The leadership of the seniors of the last couple of years has set the tone for everything. Not like we didn’t have that in the past, but we mixed up our routine. There was a big focus on making sure we warmed up enough. We don’t warm up as much as other teams, but we make sure we get in a 20-25 minute warm up. Then after we are done, making sure we get the recovery in afterwards. That has been the biggest focus for us in the last four or five years. We practiced this morning, so today is kind of a recover run for us.
We asked athletes Lindsay Siebert, Jeffrey Hellmann and Josiah Tostenson about some of Crater’s team traditions.
Lindsay: Honestly my favorite tradition, especially in the summer, is having a team out here. I think, number one, for team culture, we come out here every day. I like our new rope system. That was a good implement. I feel like I am stronger that way and speed work feels a little more smooth.
We have our annual call-a-thon for fundraising. I know in itself that sounds like not the most joyous task, but we go to Coach April’s house, swim in the pool, eat good food and go to the hot tub afterwards.
We had a sleepover at Coach April’s house as well and that would be pretty cool to do that again. We got a pretty solid group of girls here and we want to do more team building stuff that we haven’t done as much in the past. We are definitely building traditions right now. It is in the works.
Coach Loftus: We circle up after a race called the Husker Prayer and usually all the teams are gone. We stay for the awards. That is huge as far as tradition. As a promoter of a huge invitational for you . . . where is the team that won?
Andy Monroe brought that in, the Husker Prayer, from Nebraska and we kept it going. We do push-ups afterwards and then a cheer. That is a big tradition.
Jeffrey: Bike path thresholds. You got to love them! We have a lot of bike path thresholds in our past. Our favorite is post-race workouts. We’ve had some fun post-race adventures doing some tough post-race workouts. I don’t know why Loftus likes to torture us, but . . .
Sometimes it gets smokey and usually we can’t have practice if you can’t see the Table Rocks so we will go out like an hour to the woods, like Lake of the Woods or Crater Lake as well.
Josiah: What about the pie relays?
Jeffrey: Oh, the pie relays!
Josiah: You don’t get to use your hands.
Jeffrey: No hands. No sir, you have to spin around with a baseball bat, holding to your head. What is it? Ten times?
Josiah: Uh, yeah.
Jeffrey: And then you run. Then you got to eat a pie without using your hands. It is a four-person relay. You run a quarter. It is tough when you spin.
Photo gallery of the practice is HERE