As cool as it is to glance at the banners hanging inside Bayfield High School Gymnasium, to see names like Flint, Krueger, Laue and others perpetually representing Bayfield cross-country, the 2019 Wolverines want theirs to stand out on such a level, but also one all their own.
Still, they know being mentioned in similar sentences as past greats is an important honor.
“A big one, honestly,” junior Zeb Shields said after practice Wednesday, three days from the biggest race of the emerging squad’s season: The CHSAA Class 3A State Championships. “A lot of people have put in a lot of work, me included, and a lot of our seniors have been here four years and even through middle school. It’s time.”
That time is 1:40 p.m. Saturday in Colorado Springs when the No. 10 Bayfield boys hear the starter’s gun and bolt out onto the Norris-Penrose Event Center course.
“Last year, it was just me and Jonas (Nanaeto),” said senior Elco Garcia, Jr., who has the 11th-fastest time in 3A, and is one of the meet’s top contenders after a second-place showing at last Friday’s 3A Region 1 Championships held in distant El Jebel. “But this year, we get to compete as a team, and I feel not necessarily more is at stake, but you want to push yourself more when you’re running with your team.”
“I also think it helps us to get closer in a way because while we’re competing against each other, we’re also competing with each other,” he said.
The harriers have two towns’ worth of support with Garcia and Nanaeto, who placed 94th and 42nd, respectively, at last year’s grand finale. Both attend Ignacio High but run for BHS.
“The fact that I’m running for Bayfield but also representing Ignacio makes me feel happier,” said Nanaeto, a senior and Bayfield’s No. 3 at Region 1 behind Garcia and Shields. “I hope to do better than I did last year; that’s basically about it.”
“It’s interesting, honestly,” Garcia said. “It’s very competitive in other sports between Ignacio and Bayfield, especially basketball, but this is a different playing field. I love the environment, and I’m glad that I’m going to be representing not only Bayfield but Ignacio, too.”
As a group, seven Wolverines maximum can race at state, meaning the finishing order (Garcia, Shields, Nanaeto, senior Rylan Ross, Hinojosa, senior Shane Moore, junior Xander Hovenstine) which helped earn runners-up team status at regionals will likely, barring injury or illness, represent BHS ending the 77th season of CHSAA-sanctioned boys’ cross-country.
“I’ve been able to visualize the course all year,” Shields said.
The course itself should be run under fine conditions with sunshine and temperatures in the upper-60s expected to return to Colorado Springs.
“It’s my last meet, and I’m going to give it my all,” said Garcia. “I’m very excited; I’ve been training for so long for this.”
BHS has already exceeded expectations this season. Now, the Wolverines will see if they can stun a few other teams from around the state come Saturday.
“It’s been awesome to be part of this team that I’ve been able to see grow these two years I’ve been on it,” Hinojosa said, “And it’ll be really cool to see where these seniors go and to see what we do in the future.”