For a rescheduled, last-minute, emergency production, this race was one for the ages.Two of the state's premier high school cross country runners - friendly running rivals since the sixth grade - squared off for one more race.
They had hoped to run against each other Friday afternoon in the Durango Invitational at Hillcrest Golf Club, but a nasty lightning storm washed out that race.
Instead, the two runners - and their prep teammates - reconvened Saturday morning at Fort Lewis College for a memorable cross country showdown.
Rogan Brown of Durango and Derek Laue of Bayfield quickly turned the boys varsity race into a two-runner duel at the Fort.
Ethan Fowler of Page, Ariz., and Logan Winborn of DHS battled to stay with Laue and Brown as the runners made their way around the first loop of the course that circumnavigated the FLC athletic fields.
But when they started the second lap around the loop, Laue and Brown pulled away.
They ran side by side. Then Brown inched ahead, with Laue right behind.
In the second mile of the scheduled 5K race, Laue stepped into the lead with Bayfield's trademark long yellow socks.
Brown, a senior like Laue, stayed on his heels.
As the course circled back into the football stadium, Laue stretched his tenuous lead to 5 meters and then 15 meters. He raced down the backstretch and turned onto the track for the short final sprint to the finish in front of the grandstands.
With the crowd cheering wildly, Laue dashed into the finish chute in first place.
Brown finished a close second, 10 seconds back. They were timed in 15:31 and 15:41, respectively, although both runners acknowledged the course likely was short of the anticipated 5K.
"That was our last race together. I knew it was going to be something to remember," Laue said.
And he never felt like he had a comfortable lead.
"I didn't know where he was," Laue said of Brown. "I was scared. I could hear him breathing, and I could hear his footsteps. I was thinking he was right on my tail."
He was, up until the final 300 meters of the race.
"It was like our last time running head-to-head," Brown said after the race as he gathered with his DHS teammates, who won the boys team title Saturday.
"It was fun - hard, though," Brown said.
"Physically, I felt good. Mentally, it is so hard to get wound up again," he said after he and Laue had gone to the starting line twice Friday only to have both starts scrapped by the weather.
"Mentally, it's hard to pick yourself up (after a race postponement)."
Still, Brown led the Demons to the team title with his second place, bolstered by a fourth-place finish from Winborn (16:16) and a fifth-place finish by Joseph Maloney (16:30).
Durango's Chas Schwaebe was seventh. Kendall Lloyd was 11th for the Demons, with Taylor Ward 17th and Gus Elbert 22nd.
The DHS boys totaled 29 points to win.
Page was second with 39 points, led by Fowler's third-place finish and Carley Chavis' sixth. Kuron Brown of Page finished eighth.
Piedra Vista was third (67), with Bayfield fourth (83).
Jacob Hetrick finished 20th for the Wolverines. Scott Flint was 23rd, and Zeb Cyr was 29th.
"That was a great race to watch," said DHS head coach Mark Dutro, who scrambled to put together Saturday's makeup race with the help of scores of volunteers and parents. The girls varsity race was completed Friday afternoon.
Dutro said the duel between Brown and Laue reminded him of a similar running rivalry a few years back.
"It was kind of like Tad Elliott and Steve Flint. They raced against each other a lot," he said of Durango's Elliott and Bayfield's Flint.
"They were more competitive with each other when they were younger ... but then they became like friendly rivals as they got older," Dutro said, adding that the runners then, like Laue and Brown now, share a mutual respect.
Laue echoed that respect: "Running with him (Brown) keeps me more alert because of our history."
Both Brown and Laue said they'll keep a close eye on each other's times as they run through the regular season. And they plan on cheering for each other at the Colorado State Cross Country Championships, where Laue will race in the 3A classification and Brown in the 5A division.
Saturday's race even brought out retired Bayfield coach Vernon Kimball, who was inducted into the Colorado Coaches Hall of Fame earlier this year.
"That," Kimball said, "was a special race."