Battle Mountain Huskies cross-country finishes ninth in the nation | VailDaily.com

Battle Mountain Huskies cross-country finishes ninth in the nation

PORTLAND, Oregon — Erika Ghent, Battle Mountain Class of 2006, lives in Portland, Oregon, and got a chance to see her former team, Huskies cross-country, aka the Vail Valley Running Club, last weekend in the Nike Cross Nationals.

Things have kind of changed for Battle Mountain's running team from when Ghent was running for the Huskies back in the day. In 2003, Ghent, a sophomore, and Molly McGee, a freshman, qualified as individuals for state, a big accomplishment as the school had just moved from 3A to 4A in 2000.

"Erika was there. She's been there the last two years," said VVRC/Huskies coach Rob Parish, who has overseen the growth of Battle Mountain running during his two stints as the head of the program. "It was fun to introduce the story of her and Molly. We explained that Erika was the captain of the 2005 team (the first Battle Mountain squad to win state). It's been quite a journey for our team."

Now, not only is qualifying for state as a team a given — qualifying only individuals? Pfft. — but Battle Mountain contends for state titles annually, and officially stamped itself as a national program.

The Vail Valley Running Club/Huskies finished ninth in the country on Saturday, Dec. 2, at Nike Cross Regionals in Portland, the program's second top 10 finish in the nation in as many years.

Big school running

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Saturday's ninth place finish was an elegant cap to prodigious careers of the three seniors on the starting seven — Lizzy and Naomi Harding and Brogan Murray. All they've done in four years is win four regional titles, finish second, first, first and second in Colorado at the 4A state meet and now two top 10 finishes on the national stage.

"It's really cool to do it one year, but to go back is a really cool thing," Lizzy Harding said. "I'm grateful that I'm able to finish my senior year at nationals."

Lizzy Harding led the Huskies, finishing 76th overall, which is a strange thing to write and one of the challenges of running at nationals. When Harding runs in any meet in Colorado, a bad meet is 15th.

With such a fast field, keeping perspective and mental toughness is as much a part of the race as the actually running.

"You have to remember you can be 100th, and still be running one of the best races in you career," Harding said.

While the fact that the VVRC finished ninth in the country is impressive enough, the Huskies finished four points behind Temecula, California, which represents Great Oak High School which has a student body of 3,400. (Battle Mountain's is 950.)

The VVRC also continued its revenge tour. After finishing behind Niwot at the state meet in October, the Huskies beat the Cougars in Arizona during Nike Cross Regionals. On Saturday, they topped Colorado 5A state champ Mountain Vista.

Heroes

With the caveat that it's a team effort — a squad needs five scores — let's start with Elliot Pribramsky. She's a sophomore. On team that lost six seniors to graduation, including Elizabeth Constien and Alex Raichart, someone needed to step up. Much like Grace Johnson did so as a sophomore last year, this year was Pribramsky's turn.

Then there was Murray.

"Brogan Murray just had a hero day," Parish said. "She had not been in our scoring five since Delta on Oct. 8. She knew it was her last cross-country race. She's given everything to the program and she just went for it. She sent it."

An interesting thing to note — four of Saturday's seven return for next fall.

"I'm very confident that we're leaving this team in a good place," Harding said.

Nike Cross Nationals

Portland, Oregon

Team results

1. Central Oregon, 120; 2. North Napperville 186; 3. Wayzata 207; 4. Malinus 212; 5 Niwot 229; 6. Kinetic 228; 8 Temecula 249; 9. Vail Valley Running Club

253; 10. Boise 273.

Individual results

76. Lizzy Harding, 18:27

82. Elliot Pribramsky, 18:33

86. Grace Johnson, 18:34

117. Brogan Murray, 18:57

124. Emma Reeder, 19:04

127. Naomi Harding, 19:04 (tenths)

175. Josephine Trueblood, 19:52