A short and modified season came to a close with a bit of a different look Saturday for Colorado’s top high school cross-country runners.
Athletes went off in four different waves at the Colorado High School Activities Association State Cross-Country Championships at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. It was something the masked runners got used to during a season held amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
So there was no sudden celebration for the first runner across the finish line in Saturday’s races. Runners had to wait to make sure their times would be better than any of the waves coming in behind them. And at the finish line, runners and teams were quickly escorted away from the finish area to obey social distancing guidelines.
When the times had all been recorded, it was a decent showing for La Plata County high schools. The Durango girls team led the way with a fourth-place finish, while the DHS boys placed sixth. The Ignacio girls also posted an impressive eighth-place finish in Class 2A only three years after the program was restarted.
Here’s a closer look at the state championship races:
DHS senior Paul Knight had the best individual finish for a La Plata County runner. The Demons’ star put in a solid final push to take 10th in 15 minutes, 59 seconds. He was 30 seconds behind meet winner Zan Bergen, a junior from Niwot.
“Paul is only the second DHS runner to break 16 minutes on the state course,” DHS head coach Ken Flint said.
Bergen edged Mountain View junior Jackson Shorten for the Class 4A boys title. Shorten finished in 15:37. Conifer senior Zack Gacnik was third in 15:40.
Also for Durango, junior Land Lambert placed 24th in 16:35. Senior Aiden Quayle was 48th in 17:07, and junior Damian Frausto placed 54th in 17:17. Freshman Sam Persing finished 89th in his state debut in 18:39, and senior Jack Benner closed his high school career with a 93rd-placxe result in 18:56. There were 99 runners in the field.
Niwot won the 4A boys title with 36 points. Cheyenne Mountain was second with 63, and Centaurus was third with 96. Durango’s 196 points were good for sixth place, 10 behind Conifer and seven better than Palmer Ridge.
DHS sophomore Willow Lott led the girls team with a 17th-place finish in 19:32.70. She was two tenths of a second out of the top 15, as she was narrowly edged by Lewis-Palmer freshman Jade Allen and Air Academy junior Ella Chura in a sprint to the line.
DHS junior Angela McManus placed 25th in 19:57. Her fellow junior Abby Fehr was 30th in 20:12, and Tea Forrest, another junior, was 39th in 20:39. Demons’ senior Maddy Persing placed 47th in 20:55. Kristina Bodewes, also a junior, placed 72nd in 21:49 to round out the Demons.
“The girls had the best pack time of 1:23 than any other team in the field,” Flint said.
The 4A girls individual title went to Air Academy freshman Bethany Michalak. She finished in 17:59, three seconds ahead of Niwot freshman Mia Prok. Samantha Blair, an Eagle Valley junior, was third in 18:14.
The team title went to Niwot with 55 points. Battle Mountain was second with 93, and Air Academy was third with 111. DHS was 15 points behind Air Academy but was 41 points ahead of fifth-place Denver South.
Ignacio High SchoolIt was an impressive day for the Bobcats in Colorado Springs, led by standout freshman Maci Barnes.
Barnes placed 27th in 22:35 to lead Ignacio High. Bobcats’ senior Charlize Valdez was 50th in 23:52, and junior Alannah Gomez placed 53rd in 24:00. IHS junior Avaleena Nanaeto placed 75th in 24:51, while Vanessa Gonzalez, a senior, was 90th in 27:15.
The 2A girls race was won by Vanguard School junior Ella Johnson. She finished in 19:34, which was 11 seconds ahead of Peyton junior Eowyn Dalbec. Mallory Salazar, a junior from Buena Vista, was third in 20:19.
Ignacio had 147 team points. Buena Vista won with 31, 10 points ahead of Lake County. Lyons was third with 93 points. There were 15 schools that recorded team scores.
Bayfield High SchoolZeb Shields felt as though he could run his best race of the season at the state meet, and he wasn’t wrong. Shields placed 12th in his final high school race in the boys 3A state championship with a time of 17:04. The race was won by Gunnison’s Alex Baca in 16:07, and Alamosa’s Joshua Medina placed second in 16:09. Those two leaders competed in the same regional as Bayfield.
Severence freshman Caden Schweer was third in 16:18.
BHS had only Shields qualify for state.
Frontier Academy won the 3A boys race with 48 points, while the Classical Academy was second with 76 points. Holy Family was third with 99, and Alamosa was fourth with 152.
Basalt’s Katelyn Maley won the 3A girls race. The sophomore crossed the line in 18:39 for a landslide victory ahead of Classical Academy junior Kennedy McDonald, who finished in 19:13.
The Classical Academy won the girls team title with 65 points. Holy Family was second with 113 points, and Basalt was third with 121 points to edge rival Aspen by two points.