It was a first gathering of small-school teams for a national championship meet. Consequently, there wasn't much turf established prior to the running of the races. Nobody knew exactly what to expect. The only thing to do was to shoot the pistol and see what would play out on the course.
The boys raced first, with the chill of the morning air and only the slightest breeze setting the stage for what was to come.
Less than a mile in, the individual race had resolved down to Noah Graham of Marlington, Wyatt Hoover of Texas, and Chandler Wilburn of the Classical Academy. The lead group stayed that way through two miles, and a little beyond.
The inevitable splitting up of the lead group finally took place as the runners turned and headed west into what little wind there was. Hoover fell off the lead group, leaving Wilburn and Graham to settle it between themselves with about three-quarters of a mile remaining.
Wilburn stayed behind Graham until the last mound of a hill signaled the last turn to the north. With just over a half-mile to go, Wilburn made his break and sealed the deal on the first SSXCN individual title. Wilburn would run 15:47 to claim the title.
Marlington was far from done, however. Graham remained in second the rest of the way. His teammates followed him in 9-10-20-22. That combination hit the scoring computer just a bit better than the 15-16-19-23 that TCA brought in support of Wilburn.
Once the non-team-scoring runners were filtered out of the mix, Marlington (running as Dukes XC) held a 53-62 team score advantage over the Titans (running as Pikes Peak). Marlington, then, makes the trip home to Ohio as the inaugural SSXCN champions.
A lot less mystery attended the results on the girls side.
Individually, Taytum Goodman of Texas shot off the front of the field from the start and was never heard from again. Goodman, a sophomore from Springlake Earth, ran 17:33 for the win. She came into the race as an unknown on account of the fact that Texas girls run 2 miles in the small-school divisions. Goodman has run cross country 2 miles as fast as 10:55 but, until today, had not competed at the 5K distance in cross country.
She certainly made an outstanding debut showing.
The team title took only slightly longer to resolve. The Classical Academy had several up front early and only improved their team-scoring position as things went deeper into the race. Behind Goodman, Hope Ahnfeldt and Cassidy McDonald ran 2-3. Sawyer Wilson and Sophia Valentine added top-10 finishes. Kyra Shaner and Makenzie Zachman shut the door at 16 and 17. TCA's 31 team points easily dispatched the Blazer Runners out of South Carolina to second.
So far as the meet is concerned, the hard part is now done. The proof of concept is now completed. With that established, expect a larger turnout for next fall's second-annual SSXCN.
Check back late tomorrow or Monday for an album article of Colorado runners at SSXCN!