Back when 2A cross country began, roughly 10 years ago, the big trophy made a pretty quick habit of staying in Nederland. It looks like good times have returned to Nederland.
2A searched all season long for a definitive, classification-best girls team. That search proved elusive, and so we came to a state meet with possibilities abounding.
And, those possibilities abounded right through race and up to the very end, including on the individual side of things.
While Soleil Gaylord had the look of the individual favorite going in, it wasn't quite a done deal. Gaylord, however, didn't take long to move into the lead of the race, wresting that lead from the hands of Lucca Fulkerson before the race hit a mile. And, for most of the race, she seemed comfortably on top. At the mile, Gaylord was two seconds up, growing that lead to nine seconds at two miles.
Still, there was that one girl in blue she couldn't quite put away.
The more Gaylord pressed, the more closely Helen Cross approached. And, suddenly, Cross overtook Gaylord. She didn't just take the lead; she took it with authority. When Cross moved into first place, she moved there with authority. There would be no coming back.
At the finish line, Cross had built her margin to 17 seconds, meaning that between two miles and the finish, Cross had gained 26 seconds on Gaylord, 18:52 to 19:09. That's MileSplit kick of the week kind of material if anyone got it on video.
Undoubtedly some of the motivation behind Cross's finish was team motivation.
Even in 2A, though, there's a little more to winning the team title than winning the individual title.
Sarah Davidson did her part, bookending Gaylord with a third-place finish. And, since Gaylord didn't come with a team, that set Nederland up with a very tidy 1-2. Again, it was reminiscent of the earlier Nederland cross country glory years, when Robinson would win and Rebecca Hermann would back it up with a 2.
But, it still wasn't a done deal. Answering shots were not long in coming.
Maria O'Neal and Sydney Petersen went 5-7 (3-4 in team scoring), and Crested Butte's Titans entered the team title hunt forthwith. Emma Schaefer got Shining Mountain on the board in eighth. Lyons responded with Katie Fankhouser and Kylee Udovich in 9-10.
Suddenly, things were getting hard to keep track of, and still no Nederland third in sight.
Scoring complexity took another turn for the worse when Paonia crossed Katya Schwieterman, Tawnee Roberts, and Brooke Hillman in 11-13-14. Paonia would be the first team to complete their scoring, boasting a team total of 30 points (9-10-11), meaning Nederland still had a few places to spare, but time was closing fast.
Madeline Watts finished the Lyons scoring in 21st (18 team points) for a tally of 33. It wasn't quite enough to catch Paonia, but it did have the Lions in a strong second.
As the clock was winding down the final ticks on Nederland's title hopes, however, Elysia Nitsch ended all mystery and speculation with a 26th-place (21 team points) finish of 21:58.
And so Nederland successfully retrieved the prodigal trophy. Paonia narrowly missed extending their recent domination of things track and field to the cross country course.
2A Girls In-Race Standings