One glimpse at the starting line tells you this is no ordinary, suburban cross country meet. Wait until you see the rest of the photos. All photos by Maya ter Kuile-Miller.
Every so often, I get suggestions for coverage or feature articles from members of the fan base at Colorado Track XC. In nearly two years of doing this, no suggestion has grabbed my attention faster than this one. This meet just may qualify as the ultimate cross country challenge in Colorado.
For those of you who, like me, simply weren't "in the know," this meet is the Creede Invitational. Creede is a small school. To my knowledge, the school has never had a football team. The local economy fluctuates with the rising and falling of the mining and tourism industries. Graduating classes sometimes reach into the double digits.
The meet is actually held several highway miles below Creede on a ranch in the small community of Wagon Wheel Gap. If my Colorado geography serves me correctly, Wagon Wheel Gap should be a little over 8000 feet in elevation.
It's a small meet and has dealt with snowy conditions in its brief history. Whether or not it's snowing on meet day, however, the course offers enough challenges of its own:
Looking at the photo makes me realize I'll never again hold quite as much respect for the hills at the Rock Canyon Invitational! And where in suburbia will you ever find scenery like that in a cross country race?
A few Colorado meets are proud of their water pits/water crossings/other assorted opportunities for competitors to get wet. The Creede Invitational adds a new dimension to the concept of water crossing:
There's a reason this young lady is wearing gloves, and there's a reason she's running between ropes. The ropes serve an important function. It's chilly outside and bound to get a whole bunch chillier for this young lady if she misplaces a step on a slick rock on the bed of this creek (Is the "creek" possibly a fork of the Rio Grande?).
This, ladies and gentlemen, is real cross country.
So, who attends a meet like this? Well, I'm told the Alamosa JV shows up. Creede hosts the affair. Centauri ranks it as their favorite meet. Center, Centennial, Del Norte, Monte Vista, Antonito, and Sargent are coming from the San Luis Valley. Sometimes Pagosa Springs makes the trip over Wolf Creek Pass, and sometimes schools from neighboring New Mexico brave the challenge.
Right off hand, I'd guess they might need to find a wider starting line.