Two mountains conquered for Lyons

Jenna Anderson's gritty race under adversity sealed a state title for the Lyons girls, one that has eluded them since the beginning of the 2A classification. Photo by Alan Versaw.

2A girls has the undying distinction of starting off the Colorado State Cross Country meet. And, while the rank and file of 2A girls cross country may not always appreciate the unbending nature of the state schedule, they undoubtedly enjoyed the pick of the litter for racing conditions on Saturday.

While drop-outs and blown-up races became increasingly frequent as the day wore on, the 2A girls race was mostly free of that sort of thing and provided a nice crucible for the top teams to take their shots at the first of the brand new state cross country trophies.

Before the teams got to settle anything, however, Tabor Scholl went to the front of the field and stayed there. There was no Eva Lou Edwards to contend with this year, and Scholl--though never one to simply settle--seemed remarkably composed and perhaps even a little toward the side of relaxed as she took her tour of bridges, Willises big and small, and a rodeo stadium. And, she took just a whisker under 20 minutes to complete the tour.

With that settled, everyone could turn their attention to a rather remarkable team battle that was developing. Although most everyone knows the players in that battle by now, it had figured all week to come down between Lyons, Heritage Christian Academy, Telluride, and Hotchkiss.

Lyons' hopes rode high with CeAnn Udovich's second-place finish. But HCA was quick to respond with a third and sixth for Rebekah and Rachel Rairdon. Between the twins Ginger Hutton and Sierra Tucker of Lyons. Thus, through six places, Lyons had two, Heritage Christian had two, and neither Telluride nor Hotchkiss had any runners through.

Maybe this was going to be only half as interesting as we had anticipated?

Half became three-quarters in a hurry when Telluride pushed first Soleil Gaylord, then Anna Fake, then Larkin Brodie across the timing mats at the finish line.

With Hotchkiss apparently out of contention, every passing place pushed the early advantage held by Lyons and HCA closer to the edge of the cliff. Six places passed after Brodie's finish before Lyons senior Jenna Anderson put an end to the Lyons accumulation of points. Three places behind Anderson came Olivia Couch of Heritage Christian Academy, end their accumulation of points as well.

Though it was a while before anyone knew the exact totals, Lyons coach Mark Roberts had seen enough to free any restraints he may have felt about celebrating before an official publication of scores. And, indeed, Lyons had prevailed with 20 points to 24 for both HCA and Telluride. Telluride would take second on a tie-breaker, a scenario that 2A has had to make its peace with.

For Jenna Anderson, the year began with possibility of a top-ten finish at state, but the vision of that possibility dimmed some as a black boot became one of her closest friends during the season. Lyons uses black freely in their color scheme, but the boot was not a desirable team fashion accessory. The state title-clinching performance had to come as a major redemption in an otherwise frustrating season.

But, Anderson wasn't the only runner in blue singlet and black shorts whose season would come to a close with a measure of redemption.

On a somewhat more visible plane, Joel Such had struggled most of the season with a recalcitrant calf. After the opening week of the season, we saw more of limping than of striding from Such.

But, in the Lyons state title calculus, Such was an essential part of the equation.

Paul Roberts did his part, blistering the course that blistered the combined fields of the state meet with a day's best time of 16:13.1. Behind Roberts came a succession of Corey Lewenkamp, Jack Plantz, Andy O'Dell, and Andrew Tiedeman, Then Matt Dillon did his part, taking sixth in 17:34.7. But then the places started ticking once again.

And, as the places started ticking off, the hypothetical threat from Mancos became transparently real. Ro Paschal was the first Blue Jay to cross in seventh, Simon Kearns followed in 13th, then Nic Archuleta in 18th. All that was left was for the Mancos faithful to tick off places until a state title was theirs. And Mancos figured to win any tie-breaker if it came to that.

Such, of course, was the one they were waiting for. Back around 50th place at the mile, Such (photo, left, by Alan Versaw) had slowly, painstakingly, worked his way up through the field, taking as much as his injured calf would allow him. By 3.1 miles, Such had worked his way back to 22nd in 19:00.3. It was a long and painful journey from his third-place finish of 2013, but a finish that was even more signficant for his team than the 2013 finish.

The triumph of Lyons became the disappointment of Mancos, as Such's finish came soon enough to provide Lyons with seven points of margin over the Cinderella story of 2A boys cross country for 2014.

The Mancos story, however, probably has another chapter or two yet to be written. Paschal and Archuleta are juniors, and Kearns a freshman. It's likely this team comes back with a serious agenda next fall.

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