Battle Mountain harriers capture titles at regionals | VailDaily.com

Battle Mountain harriers capture titles at regionals

GRAND JUNCTION — The name of the meet has changed. The teams are different, and it still doesn't matter.

When the leaves fall, it's Battle Mountain cross-country time.

The Huskies ladies made it six regional titles in a row, be it the Western Slope or the newly configured Region 1, at Thursday's regional meet in Grand Junction. It wasn't close as the Huskies easily outdistanced Evergreen, their nearest competitor, 36-93.

"It's always super exciting," the Huskies Liz Constien said. "I'm so happy for all the girls on our team. Everyone did great. It's always great to show what Battle Mountain is made of."

The Battle Mountain boys won their first regional title since 2008, also nipping Evergreen, 52-62.

Eagle Valley's boys are going to the dance, taking fourth place. They will have some company as both Joslin Blair and Avery Doan qualified as individuals for the state meet.

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Signed, sealed, delivered

Outside of the mere fact of winning a title six times in a row, there are two rather amazing statistics affiliated with Battle Mountain's reign at regionals.

"Our freshmen were in third grade when this started," Huskies coach Rob Parish said. "They're all tied together. Our old-timers come back and check in at practice. There's a strong connection."

We pause to enjoy the concept of Val Constien, Amelia and Mandy Ortiz and the like being old-timers. We're pretty sure Erika Ghent must be eligible for social security by now.

Liz Constien, Lizzy Harding and Naomi Harding went 2-3-4 on Thursday, which is all well and good, especially when it comes to the team points. They also logged the second-, third- and fourth- fastest times in Battle Mountain girls cross-country history (Val Constien).

"I had a feeling we were going pretty fast," Liz Constien said. "All the girls we were running with are ranked in the state and have incredible (personal records). I had no idea were as fast as we were. I was hoping to go under (18 minutes, 30 seconds). It was my goal."

Constien got it at 18:10. Lizzy (18:12) and Naomi (18:19) Harding did, too. By the way, the time required to letter for boys at Battle Mountain is 18:30.

"That is historically good for those three," Parish said.

It was a total team effort for the ladies. Teams run nine athletes in regionals. All nine Huskies packed into the top 25.

"Our Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9 runners would be top-five runners on most teams in the state," Parish said. "We're fortunate to so much depth."

As is the case with any regional or state meet, a team is only as good as its fifth runner. Parish singled out freshman Grace Johnson, who stepped up into that spot on Thursday.

And, yes, she was one of those third-graders when this dynasty started.

Welcome back, boys

It sounds strange to say that Battle Mountain's boys won their first regional title since 2008. Like the girls team, the Huskies boys program is extremely accomplished.

The boys have won copious league titles within the old Western Slope format, but not regionals because of Durango's Olympic running team.

Under the heading of "No kidding, Sherlock," the start is key in big races, and the Huskies were aggressive, perhaps a little too aggressive.

"Our guys knew where they needed to be," Parish said. "I thought we were in business when I saw James Moran at 1.5 miles. He had a super strong race. He has been our fifth guy and he had struggled the last couple of weeks. Today, he looked strong and confident."

Moran actually took the fourth spot for the Huskies with Ty Willoughby (17 minutes even) as No. 5. The Huskies scoring five came in at 17 minutes in under, paced by Franklin Reilly (third), Alexis Aguirre (eighth) and Nathaniel Badger (11th).

Devils return to state

The Eagle Valley boys, carried by a bevy of personal-bests at Thursday's regional meet, will return to Colorado Springs the weekend after next.

"It was a good run for us," Devils assistant coach Jeff Shroll said. "They did pull some tricks out of their bag to get there. They all crushed (personal records) today. If they didn't do it, we aren't going."

Again, every good team has top runners, and the Devils' Aiden Branch and Jack Neifert are no exception. Team success comes from depth.

"Our sophomore runners were fantastic," Shroll said. "Bailey Beckum, John Papadopoulos, (Gerardo) Lopez, a senior new to cross-country, were right up there with Jack Neifert."

And every performance counted for Eagle Valley, which staved off Green Mountain by nine points to secure a state invite. By the by, Papadopoulos has a new nickname, "Papadropoulos," because he keeps logging new P.R.s. He won the Hoss Award on Thursday for the boys.

Some heartbreak and celebration

Eagle Valley's girls finished fifth, which is the heartbreaker spot at regionals. They were only eight points back of Wheat Ridge for the final state berth.

"I wish I could say we were flat or had an off-day. It would make it easier," Shroll said. "They all ran season P.R.s. It just shows how tough our new league is with the Denver schools. Our girls did exactly as we asked. Taylor Hermosilo had a 30-second P.R. and Michaela Mitchell was right up there. Alissa Barry was crushing it."

Blair finished fifth (18:19) and Doan was 10th (18:41). They both qualified as individuals for state, and they're a freshman and a sophomore, respectively, so the future is bright.

Hermosillo won the Hoss Award for the ladies, but the Vail Daily also awards an honorary Hoss to Devils coach Melinda Brandt, who was understandably otherwise occupied this week. She gave birth to Mya Grace Brandt on Wednesday. Congratulations to coach Brandt and her husband, Justin, on their fourth child.

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

Region 1 Cross-Country

Boys

Team

1. Battle Mountain 52; 2. Evergreen 62; 3. Glenwood Springs 112; 4. Eagle Valley 124.

Individuals

3. Franklin Reilly, BM, 16:00

8. Alexis Aguirre, BM, 16:23

9. Aiden Branch, EV, 16:36

11. Nathaniel Badger, BM, 16:39

12. James Moran, BM, 16:41

19. Ty Willoughby, BM, 17:00

21. Jack Neifert, EV, 17:02

22. Gerardo Lopez, EV, 17:05

23. Nick Williams, BM, 17:06

28. David Reilly, BM, 17:18

33. Nick Apps, BM 17:28

34. Patrick Johnson, BM, 17:28 (tenths)

37. Bailey Beckum, EV, 17:32

39. John Papadopoulos, EV, 17:34

56. Carter Baker, EV, 17:53

58. Nicholas Thompson, EV, 17:57

63. Dean Smith, EV, 18:07

81. Matthew Grewe, EV, 18:52

Girls

Team

1. Battle Mountain, 39; 2. Evergreen 96; 3. Golden 101; 4. Wheat Ridge 108; 5. Eagle Valley 116.

Individuals

3. Liz Constien, BM, 18:10

4. Lizzy Harding, BM, 18:12

5. Naomi Harding, BM, 18:19

6. Joslin Blair, EV, 18:19

10. Avery Doan, EV, 18:41

14. Alex Raichart, BM, 19:16

16. Grace Johnson, BM, 19:25

17. Kaela Fahrney, BM, 19:39

23. Berit Kirchner, BM, 20:04

25. Hannah Zvilonghi, BM, 20:12

29. Taylor Hermosillo, EV, 20:18

35. Gabby Trueblood, EV, 20:38

37. Alissa Barry, EV, 20:40

40. Michaela Mitchell, EV, 20:51

50. Katy Grewe, EV, 21:18

56. Shelby Essex, EV, 21:33

63. Janeth Chevez, EV, 21:48