A Banner Day For Colorado At AAU Nationals

They came. They saw. They conquered. 

That's pretty much what the Kokopelli Racing Team did at the AAU National Cross Country Championships 2020 in Tallahassee, Fla. Saturday. 

Both boy's and girl's squads captured the 15-18 age-group team titles in dominating fashion. And when I write dominating, I mean the Kokopelli girls tallied 20 points, beating Cherokee Trail by 52 points, and the Classical Academy by 58. And you read that right - Colorado went 1-2-3 in the girl's team competition. For the boys Kokopelli tallied 34 points to by win 38.

For clarity, the 15-18 boys and girls races were split into two waves - an "individual" race, and a "team" race. So members that were competing for a team raced in an entirely separate race from individuals. 

Leading the boys was Erik Le Roux, who captured the 15-18 team race title by blitzing the field early. Running for Kokopelli here, the Cheyenne Mountain junior ran away with a 15:13 clocking. 

Le Roux's victory was 12 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor - Walker St. John from Lake Cities. 

Le Roux was joined in the top-five by Alamosa senior Joshua Medina, who competed for the Penguin XC Club. Medina, who is headed to the University Colorado next year, finished fourth in 15:34.

Scoring for that Kokopelli team title was Noah Gandley, who finished ninth in 15:45, Alex Maline, who finished 15th in 15:56, Zinabu Engstrom, who finished 18th in 15:58, Enzo Knapp, who finished 23rd in 16:01 - Knapp was a half-a-second ahead of Knox Exton, who also ran 16:01.

As previously stated, the girl's side of the competition was dominated by Colorado. 

As impressive as the team results were, so were the individual results. 

A big part of that Kokopelli team title came from the super-merge of Colorado's 5A state champ Riley Stewart, and the 4A State champ Bethany Michalak - the two best Colorado runners in the state this fall competing for same team.

That's a recipe for success. 

Stewart was Colorado's top-finisher here, cross the the line third in 17:02. That's her third time within six seconds of cracking 17 this fall, and her eighth (out of eight) 17-minute 5ks. Michalak was the next Colorado runner across the line, finishing in a personal best of 17:14 to finish fourth.

There were a handful of Coloradans just outside the top-10 of this loaded field that included a handful of collegiate athletes. 

Cameron McConnell finished 14th in 17:54, just ahead of Mia Prok, who finished 16th in 18:04. 

Aspen Fulbright and Mckenna Mazeski were close behind, running 18:07, and 18:11. 

Scoring for Kokopelli's winning squads - in addition to Stewart and Michalak - were Nina St John, who finished 28th in 18:25, Madelyn Blazo, who finished 31st in 18:39, and Jade Allen, who finished 34th in 18:40. 

And the great performances weren't just limited to the high school groups...

Kokopelli's Tessa Walter led Colorado in the girl's 13-14 age group 4k. Walters finished third in 13:23, which was just ahead of Peak Performance's Emmelin Mucharsky-O'Boyle, who finished fifth in 13:29. 

Peak Performance's Benjamin Anderson was Colorado's top performer in the boy's 13-14 division, finishing fourth in 12:06. Kokopelli's Matthew Edwards, who is a freshman at The Classical Academy, also tallied a top-10 result, finishing eighth in 12:17.

Leading the state in the girl's 11-12 3k was REAL Training's Anna Prok, who is the younger sister to 4A state runner-up Mia Prok. Anna finished fourth in 10:31. The finish was just ahead of Kokopelli's Jordan Banta, who finished fifth in 10:35. 

One of the best finishes of the day came from the Parker Panther's Dylan Smith, who finished second in the boy's 11-12 3k, running 9:52. 

The Colorado Coyotes' Caden Muller duplicated the feat in the boy's 9-10k, finishing second in 10:31. 

Claiming the top-finish of any Coloradan was Parker Panther Trace Safken, who claimed the 7-8 2k national title in 7:29 - a one-second victory.