The regional meet is not the great prize of high school cross country. It is, however, the great winnowing field.
And, when it came down to winnowing, The Classical Academy, Salida, Manitou, and Lutheran advanced boys teams to state. The Classical Academy, Salida, Elizabeth, and Woodland Park advanced girls teams to state. TCA and Salida secured the top two positions in both races.
Individually, the boys race offered a rematch of a pairing three weeks ago that saw Henry Ilyasova hand Matthew Edwards a defeat at the Doherty meet. Edwards won this time around, however, setting up a rubber match at state between the two (not to imply that these are the only two in contention for the state title).
For the first mile, and slightly beyond, Edwards and Ilyasova ran together, occasionally shoulder-to-shoulder. When the course turned back to the west, however, Edwards made the break from which he would not come back.
For most of the race, Elijah Wilcox and Branden Davis ran 3-4, with Chandler Wilburn farther back in fifth. Wilcox, however, struggled late in the race and would eventually slip several places. Wilburn caught Davis in the last 150 meters to claim third and help set the Titans up for a more dominating team score than seemed plausible with one mile remaining. TCA would end up with 28 team points.
Salida, though, still had plenty enough gas left in the team tank to take a clear second at 54 points.
In the good news department, Manitou Springs finished third in the team scoring at 98 and qualified a boys team for state for the first time since 1996. Twenty-five years marks a long drought. But, it feels great when the rain starts falling.
The girls got underway about 15 minutes after the last boy cleared the course.
James Irwin's Marissa Clifford briefly made a bid for the lead off the start, but she would soon be swallowed up in a sea of red. That red belonged mostly to The Classical Academy, but Ella Hedman of Elizabeth, only a slightly different shade of red, was also hanging out with the leaders. Only a step or two behind was Quinn Smith of Salida.
Hedman would eventually drop to seventh, while Smith took on the role of breaking up a TCA perfect score by finishing fifth.
The Titans would have to settle for a winning tally of 16, with the order going Hope Ahnfeldt, Sophia Valentine, Cassidy McDonald, Sawyer Wilson (running her first race since August), and Makenzie Zachman. Ahnfeldt and Valentine staged a spirited intramural battle to the finish line, with Ahnfeldt taking the narrow win.