Battle Mountain Huskies girls cross-country cruises to regional win — its seventh straight | VailDaily.com

Battle Mountain Huskies girls cross-country cruises to regional win — its seventh straight

FRISCO — The sun doesn't seem to be setting on the Battle Mountain girls cross-country dynasty anytime soon.

The Huskies ladies rolled to their seventh straight crown at the Region 1 Meet at the Frisco Nordic Center on Thursday, Oct. 19. While clearly not at full strength, the defending state champions had plenty in the tank to finish with a meager 38 points, easily ahead of fellow state qualifiers, Golden (62), Green Mountain (101) and Evergreen (107).

Battle Mountain's Naomi Harding won the individual regional title, becoming the first female to win the honor since Mandy Ortiz in 2012.

Eagle Valley's boys lost a hard-fought duel with Evergreen, 72-77, for the regional title. The Devils lads, nonetheless, head to state on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Norris-Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs.

The Huskies boys experienced some heartbreak, finishing fifth, three points behind Mullen, for the fourth and final ticket to state, while Eagle Valley's girls were sixth.

The Devils' Joslin Blair and the Huskies' David Reilly will compete at state as individuals.

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The gold rolls

It's not like the Huskies need a super-power burst, but the team always switches uniforms from traditional black to retro gold for the postseason.

The old gaudy gold is somewhat garish, but also makes the Huskies easy to spot in the thundering herd. On Thursday, Battle Mountain's ladies made themselves easy to see.

On the three-lap course, Blair led after the first circuit with both Naomi and Lizzy Harding, Liz Constein and Alex Raichart in tow. After two, the Hardings were near the top of the pack, and by the close, a crush of yellow moved to the finish line.

Naomi Harding was the only female runner to crack 20 minutes with a time of 19 minutes, 56 seconds, winning the race.

She is only the third Battle Mountain female to win a regional crown — Erika Ghent (2005) and Ortiz (2012).

"Oh, wow, I didn't realize that," Harding said. "The feeling is great. Overall, the goal was to empty the tank and just have a good result for the team. The thing that makes me the happiest is not the place I finished, but the fact I gave a good showing for the team."

Thursday's race was emblematic of how Battle Mountain girls cross-country keeps winning regional titles. Though the race was never in doubt, the Huskies were still not at their best because the flu has been rampaging through their camp.

The conventional thinking was qualify for state and then get healthy, but the ladies rose to the occasion on Thursday.

"It's very exciting. It's my senior year, so I'm happy I got to do it again with all these great runners," Raichart said. "It's been a great experience."

Regional title No. 7 was still important to the crew.

"I haven't been on a cross-country team when we haven't won," senior Constein said. "It still doesn't make it any less special. Every time we run, we go into it telling ourselves, 'The competition is going to be good. They're going to be gunning for us.'"

And Battle Mountain's ladies know everyone is targeting them as the state meet approaches. The good news is that the Huskies have depth and more upside on the way.

Battle Mountain had seven in the top 15. After Harding in first, Constien was fifth and Raichart was ninth. Grace Johnson, who was a hero at state last fall, took 10th on Thursday, followed by Megan Bamford in 13th. Lizzie Harding and Brogan Murray finished 14th and 15th and didn't score.

Harding, Lizzy, that is, as the No. 6 runner for the Huskies is the sign that there's more in the tank. That is not a Lizzy-like performance, and as she experienced last year, better at regionals than at state.

"They did fantastic," Huskies coach Rob Parish said. "All things considered, they did as well as we could expect. Last week, it could have gone any way. We were really happy to see that result."

The challenge of the next week for Battle Mountain is inhaling chicken soup, tea and other homemade remedies, while maintaining a suitable work level.

Devils battle Evergreen

The milesplit.com virtual-meet function had the boys' race as an Eagle County affair with the Devils holding an edge over the Huskies.

Someone forgot to tell Evergreen.

As it turned out, the Cougars nipped the Devils, 72-77, while the Huskies fell out of the running.

"They were like five points behind Battle Mountain," Devils senior Aiden Branch said of milesplit.com. "We knew to look out for them. We were guy-for-guy with Evergreen. I thought we had it."

Team scores weren't posted immediately, so everyone saw that high school kids around this state are, indeed, learning math. The boys stood around the individual results, calculating the scores in their heads, and the Cougars eventually erupted.

"I'm proud of the boys," Devils coach Melinda Brandt said. "They ran tough and came up five points short. It was a good race. Evergreen worked their tail off. Credit to them, but we'll be back after them next week. We want to be the top team out of our region. One more run next week."

Branch led the way in seventh with Jack Neifert right on his tail.

"It was just very painful," Neifert said. "You just try not to think about it. I try to zone out on hard courses like this."

Carter Baker came home in 13th (18:40) and Bailey Beckum took 22nd (19:10) with youngster Emerson Betz (27th, 19:25) finishing the scoring.

"I'm pretty excited," Baker said. "It was pretty fun. We were hoping to do well, and we did. We're going to state."

It's only the third time in the program's history that the Devils boys have finished second at regionals.

Bummer time

As Evergreen and Eagle Valley were crunching numbers so were Mullen and the Huskies.

The math was crueler to Battle Mountain. The Huskies missed state by three points.

"The guys are devastated," Parish said. "They've had a fabulous season. They've worked really, really hard. They've replaced eight guys who were on (the regional team) last year. They've done a good job of reloading, but they did not have a particularly sparkling day."

The exceptions to that statement are Reilly, who is still heading to state, and Jason Macaluso, who had a great day.

Eagle Valley's ladies figured to be in the hunt. It just didn't materialize. Blair sparkled, finishing fourth, and will go to state for the second time in her brief high school career.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.

Region 1 Meet

Girls

Team results

1. Battle Mountain 32; 2. Golden, 62; 3. Green Mountain, 101; 4. Evergreen, 107; 5. Summit County; 6. Eagle Valley

Individual results

1. Naomi Harding, BM, 19:56

4. Joslin Blai, EV, 20:23

5. Elizabeth Constien, BM, 20:37

9. Alex Raichart, BM, 21:00

10. Grace Johnson, BM, 21:09

13. Megan Bamford, BM, 21:20

14. Lizzie Harding, BM, 21:20

15. Brogan Murray, BM, 21:38

22. Katy Grewe, EV, 22:17

23. Kaela Fahrney, BM, 22:18

45. Alissa Barry, EV, 23:36

60. Carley Beckum, EV, 24:48

64. Zoe Booth, EV, 25:14

70. Gabby Fuentes, 25:44

Boys

Team results

1. Evergreen 72; 2. Eagle Valley 77; 3. Glenwood Springs, 105; 4. Mullen 133; 5. Battle Mountain 136

Individual results

7. Aiden Branch, EV, 18:20

8. Jack Neifert, EV, 18:30

12. David Reilly, BM, 18:37

13. Carter Baker, EV, 18:40

21. James Moran, BM, 19:09

22. Bailey Beckum, EV, 19:10

27. Emerson Betz, EV, 19:25

29. Jason Macaluso, BM, 19:27

37. Nick Apps, BM, 19:45

39. John Papadopoulos, EV, 19:47

42. Luke Morrissey, EV, 19:50

50. Deagen Fahrney, BM, 20:05

52. Jake Allen, BM, 20:08