Michalak Storms To Victory, Niwot Repeats: 4A State Recap

From the opening strides Bethany Michalak was in Attack Mode.

There was no wait-and-see, there simply was no hesitation. 

The Air Academy freshman had her plan, and she sought nothing less than to execute it.

And that's exactly what she did. 

1,000 meters into the 4A State Cross Country Championships, and Michalak held a 20-meter lead over the field already strung thin by her hot early pace.

Nearly 20 meters back was Niwot's Mia Prok, and 20 meters behind her was Samantha Blair, and then a sea of space. 

What most spectators had no way of knowing then - this early - was that this line-up, and perhaps even the space between them, would remain throughout the entirety of the race. 

By two miles Michalak's lead over Prok remained the same, as well as Prok's lead over Blair.

While Michalak was running a race very familiar to her - leading from the start, and running solo nearly the whole time, Prok was in the unfamiliar position of having to chase. 

Michalak and Prok raged over cross country courses all fall and entered Saturday's race undefeated. But now racing each other for the first time this season, it was exciting to see how it would play out - given that they appeared to race with similar amounts of aggression on the course this season. 

And as it played out, Michalak was the alpha on the course.  

But heading into the final mile, Prok wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. 

The hot early pace began to take its toll on everyone, and the question remained: with two such high-caliber athletes racing each other, could Michalak hold off a late charing Prok?

The question wouldn't be answered until the two entered the stadium 18 minutes after they started the race. 

Michalak was the first to take the right turn into a nearly-empty Penrose Stadium, and Prok took the turn several seconds later.

For a moment it looked like Michalak had run out of gas and that Prok would steal the show. 

But no - Michalak poured out of the remainder of what she had in the tank and pumped over the dirt to her first 4A state title, running 17:59. 

Prok kicked in and closed what was once a considerable gap to finish second just three seconds back in 18:02.

Blair likewise kicked into Penrose for a third-place finish, running 18:14.

Ella Johnson and Aubrey Surage made a race for fourth and fifth, with Johnson taking fourth in 18:24, just ahead of Surage's 18:29.

The team race didn't look all too decided early on, but as runners began to kick in, it became clear that Niwot would defend their title. 

Madison Shults gave Niwot two in the top-nine, while Lucca Fulkerson was just a few seconds back in 13th. Taylor James and Lex Bullen capped their scoring by finishing 20th and 25th. 

Niwot tallied 55 points to claim the 4A state title. 

Battle Mountain, led by Elliot Pribramsky's fifth-place finish, took the runner-up spot here, tallying 93 points, while Air Academy took third with 111.


Next Page: A Wild Boy's Finish, And Niwot Repeats