The result from the Durango High School girls cross-country team Thursday was expected, but it didn’t make it any less impressive.
Durango’s girls ran to first place in the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 4A Region 5 Championships on Thursday at Hillcrest Golf Club in Durango. The top four teams in the competition qualified for the state championship meet to be held Oct. 28 in Colorado Springs.
The Demons scored 19 points to finish well-ahead of second-place Cheyenne Mountain, which scored 44 points. The Indians’ result would have been good enough to win a few regions across the state, but it wasn’t good enough to beat a Durango girls team with state championship potential.
“It was really special,” said DHS sophomore Madeleine Burns, who won the girls race in 19 minutes, 9.51 seconds. “Running down the last straightaway, I could hear everyone yelling for me, and it was all red. I got chills because it was such a neat experience.”
The Durango High School boys team also finished first at the regional race. The Demons scored 50 points to again edge Cheyenne Mountain, as the Indians finished with 68 points. Widefield was third with 79 points and was led by regional champion Cole Munoz’s first-place time of 16:04.80.
“I think this is a great region,” Munoz said. “Durango, Cheyenne Mountain, Widefield, we all have great teams, and there are a bunch of good individuals, too.”
While the boys race was wide open, the biggest race amongst the girls came within the Demons’ own team. Sophomore Kiara Hamlin finished right behind Burns in 19:12.53, and DHS senior Abby Scott was third in 19:41.29, after a big final effort sent her past Cheyenne Mountain’s Anna Warmack, who finished in 19:42.17. Durango freshman Ruth Holcomb gave DHS a fourth runner in the top five with a time of 19:49.58. DHS junior Anna Smagacz was eighth in 20:01.79.
Hamlin won the Southwest Sunset XC Classic on Sept. 15 on the same course at Hillcrest Golf Club, and her time Thursday was 20 seconds faster. Burns didn’t race in the home event earlier this year, and chasing Burns helped Hamlin improve her time so drastically.
“It was really empowering to run like that as a team,” Hamlin said. “Having Madeleine pacing at the front, it felt really good to run with her. She is so strong, especially toward the end of races. It was really challenging to keep her in sight, but I was so happy to run with her.”
Durango girls also placed 13th with junior Bekah Moenning’s time of 20:08.66. DHS freshmen Brenna Wolf (20:10.19) and Maddy Persing (20:10.85) placed 14th and 15th, respectively, to give DHS eight ribbon winners.
Burns said the regional race wasn’t a strong measuring stick for the Demons’ potential state success, but McMillan needed the race to determine the seven runners he will pick to compete at state on Oct. 21 in Colorado Springs. He has to submit his picks to CHSAA by Saturday.
“What I saw is kind of what I think we’ll go with,” McMillan said. “Our strongest team is in the order they finished. I think we’ve got our seven on both sides.”
DHS is the second-ranked girls team in Class 4A behind Battle Mountain. While Battle Mountain doesn’t have a runner that will compete for an individual championship like Burns, the Huskies have the depth to place several girls in the top 15.
McMillan knows he will need three runners in the top 15 to contend for the title.
“One for sure, based on today two or three, maybe,” McMillan said when asked how many Demons he thinks can finish in the top 10. “If we get two in the top 10 and three in the top 15, that’s the equation we like. Kiara running the way she did today was big, and Abby ran well at pre-state and has positive energy on the course. Ruth is a tough freshman, and I think there is competition down below that is healthy for us. We’re excited and ready.”
BoysMunoz also won the Southwest Sunset XC Classic 5 on the same course as Thursday’s boys regional race. The senior ran nine seconds slower Thursday but still ran to first place by beating Montrose senior Evan Graff by nearly six seconds. Montrose sophomore Sean Graff was third, and Durango junior Noah Bodewes came in fourth in 16:29.74. Durango sophomore Logan Moore placed sixth in 16:38.64.
“It wasn’t the order of results I expected,” McMillan said. “Cheyenne Mountain is a tough team. Their guys didn’t quite run the way I think they hoped to, and that made it a little easier for us given a few wrinkles in the middle. Logan and Noah ran really well, and it’s cool when those kids step up.”
DHS junior Aidan Fitzgerald finished 12th in 16:56.49. Bodewes and Fitzgerald usually run together in the lead group, and that was the plan again Thursday. But Bodewes said Fitzgerald caught an elbow and struggled to regain his breath and fell back out of the lead group.
“I kind of held my pace as well as I could and tried to stay up there with the guys when Fitz dropped back,” Bodewes said. “I stayed with them on the back stretch, and the wind helped me a lot. Fitz and I are supposed to stay together, and when he dropped back I felt bad but knew I had to race my race in order to make it to state.”
McMillan said Fitzgerald will have an extra fire under him in preparation for the state championship race Oct. 28 in Colorado Springs.
“Even without what happened today, he’ll have extra fuel,” McMillan said. “He’s a competitive kid. Track season last year, he had a few shaky meets early, but he really clicked at state. He’ll compete and come back strong.”
DHS freshman Paul Knight also finished in the top 15 to receive a ribbon. He was 13th in 16:59.35. Marcus Flint, a junior, ran to 15th in 17:04.14.
With a win at regionals, the Demons will now turn their focus to a podium spot at state.
“We’re in this together,” Bodewes said. “Everything we do the next two weeks is for each other.”
Durango relished its turn in the rotation to host regionals. The Demons hosted the event on a weekday, which drew plenty of angst from Front Range schools unhappy about making the trip to the southwest corner of the state on a school day, even though Durango makes the trip to the Front Range during a weekday for regionals when other schools host.
Cheyenne Mountain head coach Stan Lambros was more than pleased with the job Durango did of hosting the meet.
“I loved the course,” he said. “It was so well done, the whole event. Durango’s folks did an amazing job, and I can’t say enough about it and coach McMillan.
“Coming here is a reminder of how difficult it is for mountain schools to come to Colorado Springs. We left at 4:45 a.m., and it was a wonderful, beautiful drive. Everything has been fantastic.”
McMillan announced after the meet that Durango would put in a bid to host a future state championship race, though he noted he doesn’t have much expectation Durango will be rewarded such an honor.