Sep. 15—CHEYENNE — Emma Gonzalez has won her fair share of races over the course of her cross-country and track career at Burns High School.
However, it's the races the senior thinks she should have won that fueled her training this off-season.
Gonzalez has found herself ahead of the pack in countless races only to see her pace drop and opponents pass her late in races. She spent the summer working with Cole Manlove — who coaches the Burns half of the Pine Bluffs-Burns cross-country team — and former Pine-Burns standout Jorge Garcia in an effort to be strong at the finish.
That work helped Gonzalez battle through temperatures in the high-90s to win the 5-kilometer Kimball (Nebraska) Invitational with a time of 20 minutes, 22.7 seconds on Friday. She won the meet by more than 2:20 to help Pine Bluffs-Burns win the team title.
That effort also earned Gonzalez Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports' Cheyenne staff.
The Kimball victory is Gonzalez's second consecutive. She also battled temperatures in the 90s to win the Gering (Nebraska) Invitational on Sept. 3.
"She got beat in a couple of races during the track seasons she thought she should have won, and she was really disappointed," Manlove said. "She used to have these lulls between the 3k and 4k marks, and that's when her opponents gained ground or passed her.
"With her training, she hasn't had a lull and she's been putting up consistent splits. That's helped her win races in pretty tough conditions."
Manlove already had Gonzalez trying to post specific times during various distance intervals in an effort to help her tap into a finishing kick. Garcia — who ran collegiately at NCAA Division II Northern State in Aberdeen, South Dakota — agreed the interval training was an important component, but also suggested that Gonzalez increase her weekly mileage.
"I started running 30-40 miles per week," Gonzalez said. "I would do a lot of 6- or 7-mile runs. Then, two days per week, I would do speed training where I was running 1,000-meter repeats, 800s, or mile repeats with 200s mixed in.
"We'd set the goal time based on my level of fitness and my (maximum oxygen consumption). That got me used to running those paces during races."
Gonzalez walked the Kimball course once her team arrived at Four Winds Golf Course. She describes the race course as relatively easy, but the temperature wasn't going to allow her to make a run at a personal best.
"I knew I couldn't go for a PR there, so I went for a specific pace and trying to get even splits and some sub-splits," she said.
Gonzalez has two big goals in mind. Burns' school record of 19 minutes, 19 seconds, and a Class 3A state championship. The former was set by Austin Asay, who won the 2010 2A state title and never finished lower than third at state.
Gonzalez is in Asay's neighborhood after clicking in with a personal-best time of 19:26.7 at the Gering Invite.
The latter goal is also within reach, especially now that four-time 3A state champion Sydney Thorvaldson of Rawlins has graduated and taken her prodigious talents to the University of Arkansas.
Gonzalez placed eighth last fall. The top three finishers were all seniors, and only 26 seconds separated fourth through eighth places.
"There are a lot of good girls out there in 3A, but I'm excited to compete against them and see what I can accomplish," Gonzalez said. "There's a championship out there, and I'd like to make a run for that."
Others recognized for their efforts include:
n Keagan Bartlett, football, Cheyenne Central: The junior completed 17 of 23 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown during the Indians' 30-21 loss to No. 2 Sheridan. He also rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
n Kira Brownell, girls swimming, Central: The senior won five events across three meets.
n Central boys golf: The Indians won the Class 4A East state qualifying tournament. Junior Caden Cunningham was the individual runner-up.
n Central girls cross-country: The Lady Indians won the Division 2 title at the Liberty Bell Invitational on Saturday in Littleton, Colorado. Junior Sydney Morell and senior Kaya Pillivant placed second and fourth, respectively.
n Central girls tennis: The Lady Indians won four duals, including three sweeps. No. 1 singles player Ashli Smedley and the No. 2 doubles team of Kamryn Tempel and Genesis Tyler and the No. 3 tandem of Katie Thomson and Kashli Brown all went 4-0.
n Central boys tennis: The Indians were 4-0 on the week with three sweeps. No. 2 singles player Jackson Cook and the No. 2 doubles team of Grant Hilton and Thomas Smedley and the No. 3 doubles team of Sergio Villalobos-Alvarado and Mike Ellison all went 4-0.
n Cheyenne East girls tennis: The Lady Thunderbirds went 4-0 on the week with three sweeps. The doubles teams of Sydney O'Brien and Finley Kastens (No. 1); Teghan Baktamarian and Kaydei Murphy (No. 2) and Zoey Woods and Serena Farris (No. 3) all went 4-0.
n Cheyenne South boys cross-country: The Bison won the team title at the Kimball (Nebraska) Invitational. Senior Jack Bechtel placed second individually.
n Stu Lerwick, football, Pine Bluffs: The junior completed 11 of 17 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns to help the fourth-ranked Hornets to a 32-8 victory over No. 1 Lusk. Lerwick also rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown on three carries.
n Cade Pugh, football, East: The senior rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries during the Thunderbirds' 27-21 victory over Campbell County. He also posted eight tackles (four solo), a pass breakup and an interception.
Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.