Dale Strode/Durango Herald
COLORADO SPRINGS– Joe Maloney, with Pikes Peak peaking over his left shoulder, proudly stepped onto the podium at the CHSAA Class 4A Cross Country State Championships on Saturday afternoon.
The only thing better than the sixth-place medal around his neck was the greeting he was about to receive from his Durango High School teammates, who swarmed the popular DHS senior in the middle of the rodeo area that doubled as a finish venue for the state meet.
An hour later, the Demons celebrated another podium finish by another Maloney.
This time, sister Shannon Maloney led the Durango girls with a third-place individual finish in the Class 4A state finals at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs.
“I always wanted to be up there in cross country,” said Joe Maloney, motioning to the prestigious awards podium. “And it feels pretty nice.”
Maloney said he and the DHS coaches did a lot of planning before Saturday’s race, trying to time his moves in the jammed Class 4A boys field of 224 runners.
“I wanted to stay in the front pack as long as possible,” Maloney said.
He made up ground on the big climb over the second mile of the 3.1-mile course.
“We’ve done a lot of hill workouts this year,” Maloney said. “I felt like I responded pretty well.”
He held his ground on the second climb, then sped downhill to the finish of the 5-kilometer race in 17 minutes flat.
An 18th-place finish in the 2011 state championships inspired him to run for the podium in 2012 – with the help of his teammates, of course.
“Our team is awesome this year; I love my team,” said Maloney, son of Melissa and Murdoch Maloney.
Led by the sixth-place result, the Durango boys finished ninth in the 4A team standings with 295 points.
Durango freshman Nicholas Turco finished 61st, with teammate Gordon Gianniny, a sophomore, right behind in 63rd. They ran 18:15 and 18:17, respectively.
Alastair McMillan, a junior, finished 72nd (18:25), and fellow junior Sean McLaughlin finished 93rd (18:37). Trent Andrews was 112th and Collin Francom 141st.
“It was beautiful being around so many other runners,” said Turco, son of Jack and Jennifer Turner. “It was something else.”
“It was a really big field. I definitely got boxed in at the start,” said Gianniny, son of Cynthia Dott and Gary Gianniny.
“It was pretty crazy. The trail narrowed down pretty quickly. But I managed to move up a fair amount.”
Coronado won the 4A boys team title with 65 points. Eli Hemming, a Ponderosa senior, won the 4A race in 16:30.
The Classical Academy won the 4A girls team title with 98 points. Elise Cranny, a Niwot junior, won the girls 4A state championship in a photo finish with Air Academy freshman Katie Rainsberger. Cranny caught Rainsberger in the finishing rodeo arena, leaning at the tape to win in 18:41.3. Rainsberger was timed at 18:41.4.
Shannon Maloney finished alone in third place in 19:25.5.
“Coming down that (final) hill, they just took off,” Shannon Maloney said of the 1-2 duo of Cranny and Rainsberger. The three had run together for much of the 5K.
“They just took off then,” said Maloney, who endured a crowded start with 221 Class 4A girls.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Maloney said.
Maloney was prepared for the mass confusion at the start with such a large field, though. She maintained her pace to finish third in her second trip to the CHSAA Class 4A Cross Country State Championships in as many years. She finished 24th in the 2011 state meet as a freshman.
Maloney collected three medals – and shared a school record – at the CHSAA Track and Field State Championships last spring, paving the way for her first state cross country medal.
“It was a good experience. I like being able to run with a bunch of fast girls,” Maloney said.
The big Durango contingent of fans and friends added to the state meet experience, too.
The DHS girls finished 12th in the 30-team 4A field with 353 points.
Hannah Peterson, a Durango junior, finished 57th Saturday in 21:26. Sarah Bates, a junior, was 60th in 21:29. Emily Schaldach, a junior, was 103rd (22:14) and Carly Pierson, a senior, finished 103th (22:43). Emily Fogel (141) and Mariah Dorsey (154) rounded out the Demons’ roster.
“We had fun. We ran hard,” a smiling Durango head coach David McMillan said. “I told them that if you’re not here to have fun, you shouldn’t be running.”
One of the most enjoyable moments for the Demons’ first-year head coach Saturday came when the DHS boys, as a group, met with the Durango girls after the boys finished their race.
“The guys got together afterward and talked to the girls (about the starting-line congestion),” McMillan said. “It helped the girls, clearly.”
The Maloneys both ran outstanding races on the state stage, McMillan said.
Even more significant, the Demons picked up invaluable experience. Even the DHS junior varsity runners, who traveled to Colorado Springs to cheer on the varsity, picked up experience.
“They all did a great job,” McMillan said.