We have a fantastic panel of speakers for this week’s meeting, see more info below. Here is the link for Tuesday’s meeting at 5:00pm:
Laura Puckett Daniels
Head Track Coach and Co-Head Cross-Country Coach of the Crested Butte Titans
Laura grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she started running cross-country and track in seventh grade. In gym class, the only activity she enjoyed was the day everyone else hated–the once a year one mile run. So when cross-country became an option, it was a natural fit. Laura ran at a small private high school (240 kids) for 7th-10th grade, where she competed in the State Championship (single A division) for cross-country twice and track once (4 x 800). Laura then transferred to a large public high school (2500+ kids) for 11th and 12th grade. There, she competed in the State Championship (double A division–there are only 2 divisions in Minnesota) for cross-country once and track twice (3200). Laura’s team became the cross-country Conference Champions and Regional Champions, and she held her school record for the 4K in cross-country (girls only ran 4K back then!). Laura went on to run Division 1 cross-country and track at Davidson College in North Carolina. At Davidson, she ran the 5K in cross-country and the 3K and 5K in track. Laura was the captain of the cross-country team for 3 years, earned MVP honors, and helped the team to their first Conference Championship in her senior year.
After college, Laura enjoyed running and racing for fun, but these days, most of her running energy goes into coaching the Titans. Laura has coached track and cross-country off-and-on since 2009. Under Laura’s tutelage, her Titans have set many school records and taken runners to the 2A state championship every year, tallying up many podium finishes, including an 800m state champion. Laura loves helping the next generation of kids learn, grow, and feel empowered through running. Laura is also a very accomplished Nordic skier and mountain bike rider.
D1 Cross-Country and Track Athlete at Colorado State University
Sydney is a former student athlete of Laura’s. Growing up in Crested Butte, Colorado she played EVERY possible sport before discovering distance running. In middle school, Sydney was obsessed with basketball and volleyball, played baseball, danced, skied, and ran at track meets that didn’t conflict with club basketball tournaments. During Sydney’s freshman year of high school, she fell in love with the feeling of pushing her body to its limits. After qualifying for the 2A state meet in the 1600m and 3200m, Sydney decided to give cross country a try during her sophomore year. She finished her high school career with 14 state medals, a runner-up state finish in the 3200m, and a school record in the 4x400m. The highlights of her high school running career were the lifelong friendships she made with teammates and coaches, and at the end of her senior year, she wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to the strong community she found in competitive sports.
Sydney now runs Division I track and cross-country for Colorado State University where she is studying Biomedical Sciences. Sydney runs the 6K in cross-country and the 3K, 5K, and steeplechase in track. Sydney’s first year of competing at CSU was cut short by COVID-19, but she is looking forward to a great next few years with her teammates.
Cameron (Cam) Smith
World Class Competitor in Trail Running, Ski Mountaineering (Skimo) and Mountain Biking
Cam is one of the nation’s top trail running and ski mountaineering athletes. He is on the US World Cup Team in ski mountaineering. He also coaches adults including Laura Puckett Daniels and Coach Delaney in trail running and Nordic skiing.
Cam ran track and XC in high school at Rockford Guilford in Illinois and loved it. Guilford is a large school (2,000 kids) but had pretty poor running programs. While at Guilford, they never had much team success to speak of. Cam’s high school PR in cross-country was 15:39 and in track the 1600 at 4:27 during his senior year, but did not qualify for state in either, nor did he receive any interest from NCAA schools. Although Cam absolutely loved running and wanted to do everything he could to continue with cross-country and track in college, nagging injuries were a huge hindrance. Cam planned to walk on at Western Colorado University’s storied cross country and track teams, but with some Achilles issues his senior year, he realized that he couldn’t keep loving something so much if he could not stay healthy doing it. Cam had committed to Western as a school by that point. So before arriving on campus In fall of 2014, he decided to make a leap of faith and move on from HS/NCAA running and try trail running, mountain biking, skiing (Skimo and Nordic) on Western’s Mountain Sports Club Team and participate “non-competitively”.
Cam contends that he was pretty awful at all those activities his first year in college. But he was having so much fun that he was still putting a ton of work into personal improvement. Western’s Mountain Sports Club Team is a wonderful program that gave him coaching and guidance in everything. As Cam steadily improved, he could not ignore the competitive juices that flowed through him, and threw out his “non-competitive” plan and started enjoying some successes. He improved exponentially throughout college and qualified for the Skimo World Championships as a junior, then as a senior was part of Western’s winning D2 National Championship in mountain biking and won his first Grand Traverse (GT) ski race that winter. The GT is a 40 mile backcountry ski mountaineering race (Skimo) that climbs 6,200 feet over the Elk Mountains from Crested Butte to Aspen at midnight (to mitigate avalanche risk). It is the longest Skimo race in the world with participants from across the country and the world competing. Cam has won the GT race the last two years it has been held. He has also won the trail running edition the last two years, breaking his own course record by 20 minutes in 2019 at a blistering 8:19 min/mile pace. He has also finished first in the GT Triple Crown (including mountain biking) the last two years as well and holds that course record by 45 minutes! At 24 years old, Cam has only scratched the surface of his potential.