Save for the crowds, Ella Johns ran the second half of the race alone.
Once you got past the first 200 meters, the racing, and the course was oustanding. Those opening meters, however, provided more than their share of excitement with two hard turns and one narrow gate. Well, it's not really a narrow gate--it's just narrow for a field of 34 teams.
Obstacle-free courses are, unfortunately, hard to come by in Colorado Springs. And, though the Coronado Cougar Classic was formerly the meet that everyone attended in Colorado Springs, the Doherty meet has now supplanted it as the go-to meet for the greater Colorado Springs area. And, it wasn't just El Paso County teams that were making for a crowded starting line. Plenty of teams from points north along the I-25 corridor made their presence felt as well.
Adele Havlick of Palmer shot out to an early lead in the girls race, but biding her time for the first mile several steps back of Havlick was Ella Johns of Fort Collins. By midway through the race, Johns had drawn even. She opened an enormous gap on the second half of the long uphill march marking the middle half of the race. At that point, it became a solo effort for Johns with an 18:14 winning time.
Fort Collins isn't noted for its hills (at least not in town), but Johns has evidently found opportunity to master the art even so.
Havlick would hold onto second, but barely. Pine Creek's Emma Wilhelm was breathing down her back by the time to finish line came into view. Pine Creek teammate Madelyn Blazo run fourth, while TCA's Hope Ahnfeldt claimed fifth. All five slipped in under 19 minutes.
The team scoring was tight--at least as far as four teams deep. Heritage came out of Bear Creek Regional Park with 56 points and a team title. Pine Creek finished second with 62. The Classical Academy rolled into third with 66, while Fort Collins was barely back in fourth with 71 points.
Prominent among the teams conspicuously sitting their varsity was Air Academy.
The girls had barely finished their race on a pleasantly cool and overcast afternoon in the shadow of Pikes Peak when the boys took the course.
There would be no competitor shooting off the front of the boys race. For most of the first mile, and some even beyond, it was leadership by committee. TCA's Matthew Edwards had the lead at the midway point, but Henry Ilyasova of Manitou Springs wasn't going away easily. Neither was Christian Groendyk of Fort Collins, though his challenge would be served up later.
Once Ilyasova broke into the lead, and once again along the second half of the long, mid-race climb, there was no reeling him in. The Manitou senior owned the course and the outcome. Having made his break, Ilyasova was never again threatened, finishing in 15:28. Groendyk would overtake Edwards a bit later than Ilyasova, but his challenge, too, led to a thereafter-uncontested finish. Edwards, for his part, would hold onto third.
Three more--Zinabu Engstrom of Coronado, Connor Kennedy of Heritage, and Jake Bach of Palmer Ridge would finish under 16 minutes. I'm old enough to remember when sub-16 finishes were rare in Colorado, but this was possibly the nicest day for racing we've seen from the season to date. If conditions are right, even a moderately hilly course can yield some nice times.
Palmer Ridge, in celebration of their homecoming, took the team title with 81 points. Their football team would not be quite so fortunate a few hours later. Fort Collins would claim second with 123 points, leaving The Classical Academy in third with 130 points. Poudre and Heritage tied for fourth at 187, with Heritage claiming the place on the tie-breaker.