RIFLE - Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley cross country are definitely ready for regionals.
Mark your calendars - the season essentially comes down to around 16-20 minutes on Wednesday in Delta. And expectations are high in both camps. When the dust settles midweek, the Devils and Huskies expect to be sending all four of their teams - boys and girls.
Battle Mountain's girls and Eagle Valley's boys could probably hop on Wednesday and qualify for state. The Huskies boys missed state last season for the first time since 2003, and wish to atone. If the Devils girls qualify, it will be the first time that Eagle Valley cross country sends two teams to the big dance.
All four teams had varying forms of dress rehearsals Thursday night at the Rifle Invitational, and some quite successful. Eagle Valley's boys won the meet, trashing the hosts, 34-92. (We insert our regular reminder that lower is better in cross country.) Meanwhile, the Huskies ladies eked out a 37-41 win over Moffat County without fielding its full complement of athletes.
Hunter Burnham was second, Gregg Salaz fourth, Nathan Maddox fifth, Rafael Gurule 11th and Will Thrasher 12th, and 2-4-5-11-12 will generally do the trick.
"I thought the boys had a good tuneup for next week," Devils coach Melinda Brandt said. "The boys are training for state, so we're not tapering them yet. I'm excited for where they're at."
The Devils ladies took third Thursday. There's no doubting Eagle Valley's top three are exciting. Chantal Willoughby, Gabriella Avila and Nikki Cunning went 5-8-9 to pack the top 10. Samantha Maddox was 20th and Tyler Beckum was 28th.
"The top three have been solid all year," Brandt said. "It's getting people healthy and getting a couple more girls to add to the list."
To clarify what the coach is saying, five score at regionals, but nine compete and both Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain are making final adjustments to their regional rosters. Riley Meehan and Rebecca Miller were the Hoss Award winners for the Devils.
Meanwhile, Battle Mountain had planned to have its dress rehearsal at last weekend's Windjammer Invitational at Boulder, and make Rifle a glorified practice. But because the flu went through the Huskies girls, Battle Mountain sent out a mix-and-match crew which still won.
No Mandy Ortiz? No problem. Val Constien can win a race, too. Sydney Gaylord was fourth, Bridgett Courtois sixth, Anabel Johnson 12th and Adriana Farnen 14th.
"In all sports, you have to adapt," Huskies coach Rob Parish.
The boys did go as scheduled at Boulder, so the Huskies ran a different team at Rifle. Ricardo Arreola was 22nd, Irvine Rodriguez 32nd, Jake Borel 35th, Mike Ball 36th and Dudley Ottley 40th.
"It's great to see the young kids go in and give them a taste," Parish said. "Running is sport of training and helps to motivate them. John O'Neill (a member of the 2006 and 2007 state champions) was not a rock star as a freshman. (Current varsity runner) Joe Barrett was in this group three years ago."
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.