Colorado Year In Review: Stutzman Sweeps In Record Fashion

Photo by Bobby Reyes

The Journey Begins

Two weeks after her high school debut Stutzman ran her first 5k at the Liberty Bell Cross Country Invitational. The result was a 18:36 clocking - the second-fastest in school history.

"It was one of those moments where you're like, ok we have something very real on our hands here, and it's going to be fun if we do it right," Swartz said. 

While Stutzman was quickly rocketing into space, Swartz made sure not to overload the freshman, who was still getting used to training - previously she had been running just twice a week.

"We didn't want to exhaust her her freshmen year," he explained. "We saw four potential years of greatness."

What followed Stutzman's 18:36 were three individual victories her freshmen season, which included the Colorado 5A Region 3 Cross Country title. 

With the victory, Stutzman booked her first trip to the state championships. 

"I didn't even think about qualifying for state my freshmen year," she admitted. 

Stutzman went on to finish fourth at the Colorado State Cross Country Championships in 18:33, which was three-seconds behind fellow freshman Brooke Wilson from Valor Christian. 

The two would see a lot of each other on the course over the ensuing years.

Count that as one of the rarities in Colorado cross country - running faster on the state meet course than Liberty Bell.

As history would have it, Stutzman would have to wait to test her legs on the track, as the 2020 season went down with COVID-19. 

Stutzman's sophomore season came, and so did more victories, and more PRs.

In the condensed, seven-week 2020 season, she picked up five victories, which included a season best, school record of 17:37 at the Heritage Distance Classic (AKA Liberty Bell), and a defense of her Colorado 5A Region 3 Cross Country title. She went on to finish third at the Colorado State Cross Country Championships

In the first track season of her high school career - her sophomore year - Stutzman finally got to take her first crack and some Pomona track records. 

By now she was rewriting the Pomona record books nearly every time she toed the line. 

She went on to run PRs of 2:15.90 in the 800, 4:53 in the 1,600 at the Colorado State Track and Field Championships, where she finished third, and 10:39 in the 3,200 at State, where she finished second behind Riley Stewart

Finishing behind Stewart would become a theme, as Stutzman would spend the next year-and-a-half in the shadow of one of Colorado's most dominant distance runners. 

With her junior year came higher expectations, though the goal always remained the same for Swartz and Stutzman: just keep improving. 

"She's gotten faster in every event every year," Swartz explained. "We've taken gradual steps, and added something every year."

Stutzman agreed. 

"We've improved on the little things each year," she explained. "When I first joined my freshmen year seven miles was a long run, now it's a normal Tuesday."

And while Stutzman continued to improve, so did everyone around her. 

Gustavo Rivera became a staple training partner, and saw success of his own. 

"I wouldn't be able to do what I do without him," Stutzman shared. 

While known as Big Cat Distance during the high school season, Swartz's Trials Of Miles Track Club created a culture of students of the sport, with Stutzman as the face. The name comes from what most die-hard distance fans deem a running-testament: John L. Parker's Once A Runner - a novel that Swartz usually gifts his seniors upon graduation. 

Like the two seasons before, Stutzman's junior year was yet another display of progress, as she finished second at Liberty Bell Cross Country Invitational in a Colorado PR of 17:24, and defended her Colorado 5A Region 3 Cross Country title.

She had a rare off day at the 5A Colorado State Cross Country Championships, where she finished ninth in 18:31, though the result only fueled her fire. 

A little over a month later she finished 18th at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships in a PR of 16:56 - that would be her first sub-17 clocking, and not her last...

In her junior track season she continued to chase Stewart's shadow, running season-bests of 10:47 in the 3,200, 4:55 in the 1,600,  and 2:13.60 in the 800. She picked up three fourth-place finishes at the Colorado State Track and Field Championships

Once again, more fuel for the fire...

A month later she torched her 2-mile PR, running 10:17 to finish sixth at NSAF Outdoor Nationals

The stage was set for her senior year.

Stutzman went on a warpath through the cross country season, winning five-consecutive races heading into the 5A Colorado State Cross Country Championships, and blazed a 16:40 at the Liberty Bell Cross Country Invitational - that was the third-fastest ever run on the course, and at the time, it was also a US No. 1

The Pomona senior headed to State with an undefeated hot-streak. 

But the state title that had eluded her throughout her high school career continued to do so. 

On this day Wilson obliterated the previous course record, and became the first to break 17-minutes on the prized Penrose course, clocking 16:59. Stutzman took the runner-up, running the fifth-fastest time on the course, an impressive 17:24.

A little over a month later she went on to finish 17th at Nike Cross Nationals, running 17:35. 

While Stutzman clocked Colorado's fastest 5k of the season, she also broke 18-minutes on every outing. 

Her ever-growing resume is already impressive enough, though there's one bucket-list of an accolade she desires to add to it.

A state title.

She opened the final season of her high school career with two impressive victories - a 10:25 2-mile in Georgia at the GAIL DEVERS INVITATIONAL, and she doubled back with a 5-flat in the 1,600. 

And that proved to be barely the tip of the iceberg...

Back in Colorado she once again went on a hot-streak of victories, and then The Moment came.

The Arcadia Invitational