Paul Knight remembered being in a sprint to the finish line down the 10th fairway of Hillcrest Golf Club against teammate Wiley Corra when he was only in middle school. He finished second. He was in the same position Friday, though this time his competition came from Alamosa.
Knight, now a senior at Durango High School, and Alamosa’s Joshua Medina sprinted to the finish line after 5 kilometers of racing at the 4-Corners Cross Country Classic. Medina came flying up behind Knight after the final turn, and it was an all-out race across the line. Knight came through first in 16 minutes, 32 seconds, two seconds in front of Medina. He collapsed to the ground in victory after a difficult, hot day on soft grass.
“That kid was catching me in the last 100, and I put it all out there. It was the hardest finish I’ve had that I can remember,” Knight said. “There’s no way to describe the feeling of being able to win like that on the home course.”
The day also belonged to Corra once again. The DHS senior finished 45th in 24:40. Though he didn’t contend for the win, his result was yet another victory in his road to recovery after a 40-foot fall off a pedestrian bridge in Salt Lake City in 2018 nearly killed him and left him with brain damage. The cross-country, kayaking and Nordic ski star gritted out a tough 5K on Friday with his entire team there to cheer him to the finish line. He finished ahead of six other runners.
“The most exciting thing was seeing Wiley Corra run,” said DHS head coach Ken Flint. “He went 6:45 his first mile. After what this young man has been through, that’s amazing. What a testimony to his hard work and what a model of perseverance.”
Knight fondly recalled running the same course and losing to Corra only five years earlier.
“I remember the race between Wiley and I super clearly in eighth grade. He put a big surge in and took a lot of ground from me and he took the sprint in the end,” Knight said. “It’s super special to be racing with him here again.”
The result capped off a strong day for the Durango High School boys team, which won the meet with 33 points. Alamosa was second with 44, and Pagosa Springs placed fourth with 86. Meet host Bayfield placed fifth with 122 points, seven in front of sixth-place Montezuma-Cortez. Dolores was seventh with 165 points, and Ignacio rounded out the nine-team field with 172 points.
Land Lambert of DHS took third in 17:03. Bayfield senior Zeb Shields placed fourth in 17:12.
“It’s one of my favorite courses. When we run regionals here later, it will be colder and lovely,” Shields said. “We got to see Alamosa, and they’re fast. There’s no way around that. The only place we see them is on their home course, so it was great to see them on our course for a change.
“Regionals and state are coming up. They’re scaring me a bit, to be honest. There’s more pressure now as a senior. But I’m feeling confident after this race.”
Aiden Quayle gave DHS another in the top five. He finished in 17:13. Damian Frausto of DHS finished eighth in 17:55, one spot ahead of Montezuma-Cortez’s top runner John Whyte, who crossed the line in 18:14. Edgar Martinez of Mancos placed 11th in 18:43.
It was a similar tune for the Durango High girls, who won the meet with 20 points. Alamosa finished with 73, two points clear of Pagosa Springs. Ignacio placed fifth with 99 points, and Mancos was sixth with 123.
It was a thrilling finale between Alamosa freshman Sarah DeLaCerda and Durango junior Angela McManus. DeLaCerda would take the win in 20:25, while McManus was second in 20:33. Flint called it McManus’ best run of the season.
“We did well working as a team the first part of the race, which was our main goal,” McManus said. “In the heat, you’re more likely to blow up, so we wanted a controlled pace the first mile. Around Mile 1½, the race broke up and dispersed from there. I was able to finish strong.”
It was all Durango behind McManus, too. Junior Abby Fehr was third in 20:59, senior Maddy Persing placed fourth in 21:27, junior Tea Forrest was fifth in 21:37 and junior Kristina Bodewes was sixth in 21:46. Nina Quayle also added an eighth-place finish, as the sophomore crossed in 22:41.
“I was pleased with the ladies’ performance,” Flint said. “We didn’t have Willow Lott today, and Angela led the way. They ran together early, and Angela made a good move the second mile. We have so much depth and we have more girls that could be in the mix, as well. Good, solid performance and tuneup for the league meet next week in Grand Junction.”
McManus was thrilled to see a strong crowd of supporters on hand. She said it did make her a bit more nervous, but the support throughout the course was uplifting.
“It was helpful having everyone, and it was cool people came to support cross-country. It’s not one of the normal sports people come support, so that was really cool,” she said.
Freshman Maci Barnes led Ignacio, as she finished 10th in 23:23. Senior Charlize Valdez was 16th for the Bobcats in 23:51. That was one second and one place in front of Mancos senior Grace Manning.
“It’s kind of becoming expected for them, those two working together and running together and just seeing how hard they can kick at the end,” IHS head coach Daniel Holley said of Barnes and Valdez. “It’s really awesome to see that older mentality from Charlize, taking Maci under her arm and saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to teach you how to run and race.’ That’s really awesome to see.”
Ridley Dennison, a senior, was the top finisher for Montezuma-Cortez. She crossed the line in 24:11 for 20th place. Alannah Gomez of Ignacio ran to 22nd in 24:42.
Bayfield’s top finisher on the girls side was Abby Tate. The junior was 25th in 25:29.
Fort Lewis College also had hoped to compete at the meet, but Diné College did not travel because of COVID-19. The Skyhawks still ran a time trial event of 8K. Steven Nez was the fastest on the men’s side in 26:45 in front of Bayfield alum Cody Speece, who finished in 27:48. Ignacio High alum Elco Garcia was fourth in 28:22.
The FLC women ran a 5K. Senior Makiah Salzano was first in 19:58. FLC will send seven men and seven women to Gunnison to race against Western Colorado on Saturday.
For Durango, Friday was a good test before the Southwestern League championship race next week.
“The team is in a really good position for boys and girls,” Knight said. “I think we have a really good chance for regionals and state.”
For Bayfield, it also was a chance to preview the same course it will host the 3A Region I championship meet on Oct. 9.
“We’ll be right back here, and I’m excited to come back, get it all set up,” said BHS head coach Josh Walton, who drew praise for how well Friday’s meet was held. “We’ll have 12 teams for the regional meet from Aspen to Delta, so it’ll be fun. We’re just excited.”
Joel Priest contributed to this firstname.lastname@example.org