Coaching and covering the various regional races at Lyons Thursday, I was reminded why our sport is so special. The beautiful setting, energetic atmosphere, and great racing all made it a fun day.
But it’s the melding of individual and team goals that make cross country what it is. Seven runners (generally speaking) toe the line not only with their own dreams and expectations, but those of their teammates, squarely planted on their shoulders.
Broomfield’s Greg Weich (whose boys are managing quite a set of new-found expectations with considerable skill) and I were talking before the race about the pressure these kids face at this time of year: running, obviously, but school, social lives, and often more.
He summed it up best, “These kids are a lot tougher than I am.”
I saw a lot of nervous pacing around the area where the scores were being posted after the various classifications’ races, heard many hopeful comments between coaches and athletes. There were hugs, shrugs, and some tears as well.
Talking to and watching some of the day’s biggest stars made it clear that—at the high school level, anyway—running is about team.
Mountain View’s McKayla Gray has been battling 4A’s best girls for three years; now, she has an amazing team surrounding her to share the workload and a regional team title. Niwot’s Doug Duffy has superstar runners in Elise Cranny and Nick Harris, but left the meet yesterday thrilled with his team’s third-place finishes.
Brush’s Jeff Marcus beamed at his girls’ flawless pack running that led to a big team victory in the 3A race.
Lyons senior Sean Flynn won the 2A race in thrilling fashion, dueling Jake Rothman of Alexander Dawson, both runners surging in front multiple times in the last 100 meters of the race. It was not only Flynn’s first regional title, but first major meet title of any kind. But the first words out of his mouth had to do with the performance of his team, which put six runners in the top ten of the race. “We’ve worked really hard together to try and do this as a team,” Flynn said. “Before the race we stressed focus, and that’s what we did.”
No one looked more impressive than Nederland’s Kelley Robinson. She posted a new course record of 18:21 in the 2A race, and made it look way too easy, outpacing friendly rival Birdie Hutton of Shining Mountain Waldorf by 52 seconds.
Coach Ken Robinson, obviously proud on a couple levels on this day, said he had been cautious with Kelley’s training and racing plans in high school; Kelley has been racing since she was 12 and has a long, bright future ahead. A low-mileage runner, Kelley has often run with the pack and tried to kick down the competition at the end.
Not so Thursday, as she went through two miles faster than she has all season on the challenging Lyons course.
“It was fun, and I was surprised with the record,” Kelley said.
She was more interested, however, in talking about her teammates’ performances—the Nederland girls went 1-3-6 (8-13) for the easy victory. “It’s like Dad says, we wanted to go out and represent,” Kelley said.
Thompson Valley’s Gus Waneka had enough time after his finish to gather himself and head back up the finishing chute to cheer on his teammates, with gusto enough to earn a polite warning from meet manager Mark Roberts.
A 16:06 on the challenging layout was nearly good for a course record and proof positive that Waneka will be a contender next weekend. It’s no secret to me, at least, as his first comment to me after the race was about the team score—that he’s equally interested in a team title next weekend.
Waneka’s Eagles and the #1-ranked Broomfield Eagles staged another exciting duel and once again, Broomfield’s depth at positions 3-5 carried the day. And again, it was Joe Mitchem moving up in the last 1000 meters that turned the tide. Within a 30-second span on either side of the 17:00 mark, Broomfield put three runners in the chute while Thompson Valley could only manage two, and that more than offset the gains made at positions 1-2 by TVHS and cemented a 40-47 win for Broomfield.
A name to watch for the next couple seasons: Ethan Gonzales. The sophomore ran a fine 16:55 and looked good doing so, placing 6th overall.
The 4A girls’ race was also a nail-biter between two short-handed Loveland schools. On this day, Mountain View was better able to overcome Kayleen Rybicki’s absence than Thompson Valley was the loss of Lauren Anderson. At two miles, my tally of team scores showed a tie at 50 points. But a clutch PR by freshman Caroline Foster and the roughly five spots gained by Liz Powell in the last mile gave the Mountain Lions the edge, 47-49.
The 3A girls’ race also produced a near photo finish. Berthoud’s Kiah Leonard edged ahead as the course turns off the track onto the football field with less than 100 meters to go, but Estes Park’s Kelsi Lasota had a little more power left and won, 19:36 to 19:37. In the team race, Brush was too strong for the other the competition, placing all four scorers in the top 12 to win 36 to 53 over Lasota’s Bobcats. Berthoud, Frontier Academy and Jefferson Academy also advanced to state.
The boys’ race shook out similarly to the 4A race, as Jefferson Academy had the advantage through two runners, but Sharon Ebherhard’s University squad was a bit better at 3-4, and won 45-49. Garret Coles also won the individual title, in a very solid 16:44. Estes Park, Frontier Academy (look out for these folks in the future with two good, young coaches in Bret Shanklin and Dan Joiner), Brush and Eaton also punched a ticket to state.
It was another great day in Lyons, CO, a place that is becoming well-known (thanks largely to the efforts of Mark Roberts, Doug Duffy and their staffs) for forging great runners and spectacular teams. The runners from 4A region 2, 3A region 4 and 2A region 1 will certainly make a lot of noise next weekend in Aurora.