4A fireworks

Eric Hamer of Palmer Ridge combined a hard-earned team title with his individual title today. Photo by Karen McCoy.

If you saw the Palmer Ridge coaches on the course late in the 4A boys race, it wasn't hard to imagine what they might be thinking. The 4A boys race, widely regarded as one of the surest outcomes of this year's state meet turned out anything but.

Invigorated, perhaps, a little by their flashy argyle singlets, Niwot made things way too uncomfortable for Palmer Ridge, threatening even to snare the state title from the paws of the Bears. In the end, however, Palmer Ridge had just enough to hold off the charge of the Cougars.

Things started well enough for Palmer Ridge. Eric Hamer wasted little time jumping to a lead. And, once Hamer made his break, there was no bringing him back. Hamer's final margin of victory reached to the full span of 32 seconds over Cheyenne Mountain's William Mayhew. Hamer's winning time stopped the clock at 16:17.7.

Where things didn't go so well for Palmer Ridge was that Kelly Christensen's crew was unable to put any more runners into the top ten. Niwot's Jake Fisk, meanwhile, took fifth in 16:56.7, just behind Ian Meek of Montrose and Maximilliano Martinez of Widefield. The timing system had a few fast and furious moments as these three crossed the line.

Places traded off between Palmer Ridge and Niwot over the next few runners. Liam Cox took 12th for Palmer Ridge, and Niwot answered with Joe Plunkett in 17th. Palmer Ridge's Tommy Herebic took 19th, anwered by Niwot's Isaac Flores in 23rd. Niwot finally turned the tables with Elliot Minor in 29th to Andrew Rudnicki in 33rd. 

All suspense ceased, however, when Palmer Ridge's Jeremy Meadows finished in 34th. The final tally had Palmer Ridge with 94 and Niwot with 106. You could almost feel the collective sigh of relief from the Palmer Ridge faithful. Niwot had put up a far better fight than anyone had anticipated, and the celebrated Palmer Ridge pack was just a bit more spread out than usual. 

Durango and The Classical Academy went home in third and fourth places, respectively.

With the boys race delivering some unexpected fireworks, one could only begin to imagine what the girls race--which was not expected to be a blowout--might hold.

The excitement was not long in coming. After a restart (which may have been an exercise in mercy given how many 3A girls were still on the course when the first gun went off), the second starting gun released the 4A girls while there were still some residual obstacles from the 3A girls race. 

Those who expected Rainsberger to drop the field from a very early stage were in for a surprise. Kayla Young, Lexi Reed, Lauren Offerman, and Riley Cooney were determined to stay with Air Academy's national-caliber star, and Rainsberger seemed inclined to let them hang around. At one mile, it was still a close pack. By two miles, Rainsberger had begun to open up some breathing space, but Young, at least, remained in close enough contact to take things over if Rainsberger showed the slightest weakness.

It wasn't Rainsberger's day to show any weaknesses. She would go on to post the fastest girls time of the day at 18:50.3, five seconds faster than Lauren Gregory's time run 90 minutes earlier. Young would finish second in 19:03.9. Reed and Offerman would hold on to the next two places, but Valor's Lauren Ogg would slip ahead of Mountain View's Riley Cooney for fifth.

And, that little drop of a place held the potential to be costly for Mountain View. In a battle where Thompson Valley and Niwot are involved with Mountain View, it's a well-known fact that every point counts.

Whatever advantage may have been lost, however, was more than gained back when Abby Stewart finished in 14th. Between Thompson Valley and Niwot, only Emily Cranny had managed to finish ahead of Stewart, and Cranny had squeezed in at 13th. 

Thompson Valley came back hard, though, packing their next five in between Kendra Larson's 21:00 and Emily Leidig's 21:48, and all five ahead of Mountain View's #4. Mountain View's 4 and 5, however, were not long in coming, finished at 22:01 and 22:02, giving the Mountain Lions enough to hang on for a 12-point margin over crosstown rival Thompson Valley.

On this day, Niwot never really found their way into the fight. The Cougars fill back into fifth position, being surpassed by Palmer Ridge and Evergreen. The Jefferson County group acquitted themselves nicely on the day, with Wheat Ridge and Green Mountain taking seventh and eight, respectively.

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