COLORADO SPRINGS — It’s officially the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, but in the lingo of the cross-country world, it’s pre-state.
The Stampede is run on the state course, where everyone in the world of running wants to be at the end of October. And while a few running powers are not in attendance, Thursday’s race is a nice look at the whole field and how the local squads measure up against Colorado.
Pretty darn good would be the concise review. Battle Mountain’s girls finished third in the 4A invitational division, while the Huskies boys were eighth and Eagle Valley’s gents 12th. (The Devils ladies ran Friday at Delta, and the boys sent another set of runners to that meet.)
The three local squads present on Thursday all appear to be in the hunt, and certainly were happy to be running a real race at last after summer training and regular practice.
“It’s kind of like riding a bike,” said Huskies senior Sydney Gaylord, who could be speaking for any of the local participants. “You never forget how to race. It’s good, though. It’s different. It changes it up.”
The Huskies ladies certainly look like they’ll be in the mix for a state title. They finished third behind Thompson Valley and regional rival Durango. Do note that The Classical Academy, the defending state champs, and Air Academy were not present on Thursday.
Val Constien was on hand and she was third in the 4A field with a time of 20 minutes, 23 seconds, followed by Gaylord in 19th (21:23). Annabel Johnson (41st, 21:23), Hannah Gaylord (42nd, 22:31) and Rychelle Denardo (22:38) rounded out the scoring.
“It’s a good check of where you are,” Huskies coach Rob Parish said. “The kids have worked so hard this summer. It’s nice to get that first race. At some point, you get tired of running against your teammates. It’s nice to have a check of your fitness.”
Josh Braun led the Battle Mountain boys in 31st (18:37), followed by Cameron Moore (40th, 18:49), Ricardo Arreola (19:19), Ethan Cotton (19:30) and Jake Borel (19:32).
Borel was a bit of a hero for the Huskies’ boys. Battle Mountain’s second Ethan, aka Pence, had one of those days when he wasn’t at his best and Borel filled in nicely.
Two names in Battle Mountain’s camp on whom to keep and eye are Morgan Croke, who was third in the JV girls race, and Alexis Aguirre, fifth in the guys JV. Those performances tend to catch a coach’s eye and add some competition for varsity spots.
For the Devils, Nathan Maddox was big with a 26th-place finish in 18:29. Gino Giovagnoli, the track veteran turned cross country runner, felt right at home with a 19:04, good for 49th. Michael Niemeyer won the Hoss Award, while taking 57th in 19:12. Rafael Gurule (19:35) and Brandon Sheard (19:56) punched in scoring times for Eagle Valley.
“I’m really happy with Nathan’s performance and Michael, they both had really solid races,” Eagle Valley coach Melinda Brandt said. “Nathan, Rafa and Michael were near or better than their state times from last year. They’re picking up where they left off last year, which is really impressive.”
And, please make way for the new kids on the block. Welcome the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy Yetis. (Yes, that’s an absolutely awesome mascot.) VSSA is fielding a 2A cross country team, and while the Yetis are on CHSAA provisional status, meaning that they are not a full-fledged varsity team eligible for a state title this season, their debut was just fine, thank you.
They won the 2A race. Ian Boucher took top honors in the race with a winning time of 17:51. Cal Deline was second in 17:56 and Cully Brown was seventh (18:59). Going 1-2-7 usually does the trick.
Eagle Valley was scheduled to run at Delta Friday. Both the Devils and Huskies head to the Battle Mountain Invitational at Beaver Creek on Sept. 7. The varsity teams start at 10 a.m. There is also a citizen’s race at 1 p.m., which is a fundrasier for the Huskies. Interested runners can register on www.vailrec.com or in person on race day.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and via cfreud@vail daily.com.