Showdown at Clement Park

The Dave Sanders Invitational started under sunny skies and warm conditions at Clement Park next to Columbine High School. In the division 1 boys' race, the battle looked to be between the top two teams in the 5A rankings: #1-ranked Regis and #2 Dakota Ridge. 4A Wheat Ridge (ranked #2) chose to run up as did 3A Lyons (ranked #3).

The field was somewhat depleted from last year with several top teams running at the LoboCat
meet in Fort Collins on the state course and Cherry Creek's varsity competing in California this weekend. Still, meet director Art Vigil assembled a field with plenty of firepower, both in terms of individual talent and team strength.

The D-1 boys individual race quickly developed into a four-man affair with Evan Appel and Bobby Nicolls taking the lead followed closely by Andrew Roberts and, about another ten seconds back, Dart Schwaderer. The leaders passed through the mile just under 5 minutes as they headed around Johnson Reservoir. As they came around the lake and passed the two-mile mark just under 10 minutes, Bobby Nicolls fell off the pace and Evan Appel began opening a gap on Roberts and the now closing Schwaderer. Appel finished in fine form in 15:30, Roberts held on for second in 15:44, and Schwaderer stopped the clock at 15:47. Dakota Ridge claimed a tight team race with four runners in the top 15 to score 74 points. Wheat Ridge, on the strength of their top three running third, fourth, and sixth, was second with 82 points. Chaparral grouped nicely with their top five between 10th and 22nd to score 87 points, and Lyons, in a performance sure to resound within the 3A ranks this week, put their five in the top 35 to claim fourth with 92. Regis finished with 103 points to hold off Pomona (155 pts.) for a top-five team finish.

The division 1 girls' race saw the much-anticipated return of Katie Vanatta, and she didn't disappoint as she finished in 18:27 and led her team to a fairly easy 19 point victory without teammate Natosha Rogers. Camille Logan of Littleton ran a strong race to finish second in 18:43, and Chaparral grouped their top five between 6th and 31st to score 93 points and hold off Smoky Hill (103), Green Mountain (106), and Grandview (134).

In Division 2 action, 4A powers D’Evelyn, Evergreen, Mullen and Thompson Valley locked horns with new-to-4A-ranks Roosevelt, 3A upstart Colorado Academy and others.

On the boys’ side, Evergreen’s Ryan Haebe and Overland’s Roblet Muhudin ran an opening mile in the 5:10-range, burning off most of the other early frontrunners. But D’Evelyn was three-strong in the top 10, and Thompson Valley and Colorado Academy tried to keep their pack close.

Somewhere during the mile around Johnston Reservoir, it turned into a truly two-man race, as Haebe looked very relaxed through the two-mile around 10:20. He went on to win the race in 15:50 (over Muhudin’s 15:53), a very impressive followup to his 15:52 Liberty Bell run of a couple weeks ago. Coach Rob Wright obviously has his top runner rounding into great form. Those compiling lists of the top runners in Colorado this year need to keep an eye on this Cougar senior!

Behind those two great performances, an interesting team race was developing. D’Evelyn’s top three of Tim Muller (at left, photo by Ken Regan), Kevin Johnson and Sam Pottinger held their spots at 3-6-8, but Thompson Valley’s foursome of Sean Beal (5th), Gus Waneka (13th), Tom McKenna (14th) and Ricardo Apolonio (16th) were moving up, as were runners from Colorado Academy and Roosevelt. The front-end strength of Micah Porter’s Jaguars was too much on this day, earning them the victory by five over TV, 10 over CA and 14 over a stronger-than-advertised team from Roosevelt.

Porter, without an All-American leading his team for the first time in several years, nonetheless has taken to his team this year. Surprised by his team’s development so far this season, Porter said he is excited to see what the boys can do over the next few weeks.

“I’ve really enjoyed coaching a ‘normal’ team this year,” Porter said. “I’m calling it the ‘Kevin Williams effect.”

“The boys have all realized it’s up to them. Our top three have come along really well and if our four through seven keep developing, we could have a top-five team.”

The girls D-2 race featured the only regular-season matchup of current top-2 ranked teams in 4A. Jack Carson’s Mullen Mustangs started strongly and ran well, but the depth of the girls from Thompson Valley eventually took control to the tune of a 20-39 victory. Evergreen (52), Roosevelt (87) and D’Evelyn (109) rounded out the top five in the unique, run 10/score 4 format.

The Eagles, making their first trip to Sanders, were once again led by senior twins Laura and Liz Tremblay, who finished first and fourth, respectively. Hannah Pensack-Rinehart (6th), Jessica Cunningham (9th) and Alicia Randall (10th) also recorded top-10 finishes for the ladies from Loveland.

Lyons’ sophomore Melissa Roberts followed the lead of older brother Andrew with a strong second-place finish, while Evergreen’s Bryn Haebe, who ran a great last mile to nab third, wouldn’t let the family spotlight shine solely on brother Ryan. Three pretty good running families: the Tremblays, Roberts’ and Haebes—to add to the Nicolls’ and Appels!

Note: Mark Roberts (Lyons HS) contributed to this article.