TCA, Salida Tangle in 3A Region 2 Matchups

Salida's Josh Noriega took another step in an already stellar season by winning the 3A Region 2 boys title in 16:31. Photo by Alan Versaw.


The opening race of the 3A Region 2 Cross Country Championship had all the markings of a grudge match--except that Salida and The Classical Academy boys teams have a profound respect for each other. Highly spirited, yes. Passionately waged, yes. Grudge match, no.


Standings over early portions of the race showed Salida in the lead as front runners Josh Noriega and Lukas Garcia opened a sizeable lead on the pursuit pack in the first mile. Teammates Garrett Lundberg and Drew Johnson maintained good postions amongst the top runners from the other schools.


As the race developed through one and two miles, everything seemed to point to a repeat of last week's Tri-Peaks League meet where Salida went 1-2-4-15 and TCA 3-5-7-9 with to set up a 22-24 victory for the Spartans. Given that Salida's #4 was further up than he had been at the league meet, things looked even a bit brighter for Salida than last week.


Making the final turn onto the finish straight Noriega and Garcia still held down the first and second positions.


This time, however, the TCA lead runners had stayed in better position late in the race. Josh Simkins, still in contact with Garcia, put on a burst over the final 200 meters to overtake Garcia for second with a time of 16:48, while John Metzger held on for fourth in 17:04. The difference was small, but important. These two changes in position from the previous week would propel the Titans to a 23-23 tie with the Spartans after scoring the regulation four runners.


But the tie was not long in being broken. TCA's Jacob Mueller crossed the finish line in 16th, one place in front of Salida's Jacob Adamson. And so, the meet title was settled on a tie breaker, and that by a single point. You could go to a lot of trouble breaking down the differences between these two teams, but those differences amount to very little on race day.


Both teams retain hope for a solid showing at the state meet and await the opportunity to take on top-ranked Faith Christian for the first time this season. They will be joined at state by additional regional qualifiers Colorado Springs Christian and Discovery Canyon.


The girls' race lacked the drama of the boys' race but did feature a more intriguing finish at the front than most had anticipated. Kaitlin Hanenburg finishes most races more or less alone. This time, however, she had company, and the company was wearing the same uniform. In the end, Hanenburg's 18:29 kept her three seconds ahead of teammate Emily LaValley, but LaValley's 18:32 moved her up a couple of notches in the individual rankings for Colorado girls.


Seeing Double: TCA's Emily LaValley, left, and Kaitlin Hanenburg, right, set up a 1-2-3 finish for TCA in the 3A Region 2 Championship. Photo by Alan Versaw.


Behind Hanenburg and LaValley came teammate Shelby Stableford, in uniform for the first time in three weeks. The layoff seems to have proven beneficial for Stableford as she cruised comfortably to a 19:08 finish on the same course on which she ran a 19:26 in an adrenaline-laced showdown with Fort Collins three weeks prior. And, a 1-2-3-6 finish was all TCA needed to wrap up an eighth consecutive regional title.


Behind the Titans in the team standings was, however, a very close battle between the third and fourth ranked 3A girls teams in the state. Lauren Policky (4th, 19:31) laid the foundation for Salida's 4-point victory over the other team in purple--Discovery Canyon. Discovery Canyon, in turn, was led by a strong finish from Allie Morgan (5th, 19:43). Both teams present a lot of challenges for the other team entries at the state meet. Colorado Springs Christian nailed down the fourth, and final, state-qualifying position.


Complete Meet Results