SAULS CREEK - They cheered for all the school colors.
The cross country runners and their wayfaring fans cheered for purple and gold, green and white; they cheered for orange, black and maroon.
But the loudest and longest cheer Saturday morning clearly was for red, white and blue.
When the Bayfield High School pep band sounded the final notes of the Star Spangled Banner on Saturday's anniversary of Sept. 11, the crowd at the annual Bayfield Cross Country Challenge at Sauls Creek erupted into a thunderous, extended roar.
They still were cheering when Kelsey Corbin of Mancos and the varsity girls hit the forest roads and trails for the 5-kilometer test of fitness and willpower.
Corbin, the defending champion, had the fans cheering for Bluejay blue when she raced up the final 150-meter climb and across the finish line, winning in 21 minutes, 46 seconds.
Lindsay Friesenhahn of Farmington edged Emilie Bryant of Pagosa Springs for second place. They both were 23 seconds back.
Ty Williams of Telluride won the boys varsity duel Saturday (17:55), easing away from two-time defending champion Evan Bekes of Bloomfield over the final mile.
Eric Lewis of Mancos finished third.
"This has always been my favorite course," Corbin said after her second consecutive win at Sauls Creek. "The hills here are challenging. I like ... the hills, and that's where I try to take advantage."
She stayed in the lead group halfway through, then pulled into the lead.
"These girls are good runners," said Corbin, a senior. "And they're young. They're like freshmen and sophomores."
"That was fun," said Friesenhahn, a Farmington sophomore. "I've run this (course) once before, and I liked it. I like being pushed to my limits."
Bryant and the Pagosa Springs girls won the varsity team title with 45 points. Aztec was second (58). Mancos was third (66). Telluride (72), Piedra Vista (81), Kirtland Central (88), Bayfield (100), Durango JV (101) and Cortez (141) followed in order.
The Piedra Vista boys team dominated team scoring to win with 25 points. The Panthers had three runners in the top six - Brandon Levi fourth, Kevin Mike sixth and Colby Gibson seventh.
Telluride, led by Williams' victory, finished second with 48 points. Cortez was third (71), followed by Pagosa Springs, who won a tiebreaker against Bayfield (81), BHS (81), Farmington (93), Kirtland Central (118), Mancos (140), Durango JV (150) and Aztec (159).
"I started breaking way at the start of the first hill," Williams said, recalling his race.
But, he said, Bekes and Lewis pulled even with him.
Then, in characteristic fashion, Williams accelerated on the first long downhill.
"I just tried to maintain it to the finish," said Williams, who attends school in Norwood but runs for Telluride because Norwood doesn't have a cross country program.
He won the Colorado Class 2A state cross country title last year.
"It always feels good to put out your best effort," he said. "Whether you win or not, it's about your best effort."
"When he started to take off, I just couldn't keep up," said runner-up Bekes, who won at Sauls Creek in 2008 and 2009.
Battling a bad cold like several other prep athletes at the meet, Bekes said he didn't have the energy or leg turnover to stay up with Williams.
Cole Bryson led the Bayfield boys in their home invitational. He surged late and finished ninth in 19:38.
Teammate John Cusick, who was third last year, struggled with a side stitch and eventually finished 11th.
"This wasn't easy (Saturday)," said Cusick, who added he at least was able to hang with the leaders through the first half of the race.
But a sideache on the first downhill worsened.
"We went back up the (next) hill, and I just lost it," the BHS senior said. "I started going backward. I was ... hoping for a better finish."
Bryson, a junior, caught Cusick near the finish to earn his top-10 result.
"I was supposed to go out easy and relax the first mile," Bryson said. "You know it's still going to hurt, but it hurts for everyone."
Rolling into the second half of the race, Bryson said he felt relatively comfortable.
"I had enough left to have a good finish," he said, crediting coach Pat Vaughn's workouts.
"Coach Vaughn is an amazing coach. He does an amazing job," Bryson said.
Joe Hetrick finished 31st for BHS, and teammate Hunter Funkhouser was 34th.
Freshman Sonja Fleming set the pace for the Bayfield girls with her 10th-place finish (24:20). Teammate Erika Newell was next in 11th (24:30).
"Everybody went really, really fast at the start," Fleming said. "I tried to stay with my teammates ... help pace each other."
From the middle of the pack, she climbed to finish in the top 10 in her first varsity outing at Sauls Creek.
"I just really wanted to do well on this course," Fleming said.
Chloe Muir added a 40th-place finish for the Wolverines. Lacey Peinado was 43rd. Darby Boggess was 45th.
In the middle school races Saturday morning, Bayfield won the girls and boys divisions.
Piedra Vista won the boys JV event, while Pagosa Springs won the girls JV race.
Saturday's Bayfield Cross Country Challenge was dedicated to the memory of Maddie Milner, a popular BHS cross country runner who died in a skiing accident last winter at Durango Mountain Resort.