Salaz, Ortiz since at Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

Salaz, Ortiz since at Beaver Creek

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BEAVER CREEK – Call it a split decision at the Battle Mountain Invitational cross-county meet Saturday in Beaver Creek.

As expected, the Huskies ladies rolled to a team win over Eagle Valley, 29-57. That said, the Devils boys made quite the statement, dusting their Battle Mountain counterparts, 27-70.

Eagle Valley’s Gregg Salaz (19 minutes, 8 seconds) won the boys’ race, while Battle Mountain’s Mandy Ortiz (22:16) was second among the ladies, behind only Palisade’s Greta Van Calcar (22:03).

And for those of you scoring at home, that is Salaz’s first win of his career – he was third at this race last season. It’s also the first time an Eagle Valley runner has won a race since 2008. (The name you’re searching for is Mario Gonzalez, who won three times that year for Eagle Valley.)

Before every race, most teams have a goal-setting meeting. Salaz’s goal was simple – win the thing – and he got it.

That said, it’s still a new feeling to be leading the pack.

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“At the beginning, I thought I went out too hard, and thought I’d lose it during the race,” Salaz said. “But people were shouting at me how far ahead I was. I was looking over my shoulder to see where he was.”

He was Glenwood Springs’ Vinny Marr, who ended up 9 seconds behind Salaz in second place.

Eagle Valley, though not the host, knew the Beaver Creek course well, and had a game plan for the race – go out fast to establish position for the singletrack later in the course.

The Devils did it will and that reflected in their final finishes. They ran as a pack with Nathan Maddox (third, 19:51), Hunter Burnham (fourth, 19:53) and Michael Niemeyer (eighth, 20:17).

But, with as much focus as there always is on a squad’s top runners, a team always needs a fifth to close things. That was Rafael Gurule, who took 11th in 20:41.

“Rafael played a huge part,” Devils coach Melinda Brandt said. “He had a great week of practice and he had a great race.”

For Battle Mountain, David Suarez was the Huskies top finisher in sixth, followed by Cameron Moore (12th), Ethan Pence (13th), Ethan Cotton (18th) and Josh Braun (21st).

The Huskies girls took care of business as expected. With Palisade not fielding a complete team, its paces did not count toward the team scoring. As such, Ortiz, Sydney Gaylord and Val Constien went 1-2-3. Bridgett Courtois was fifth and Jenai Denardo 18th for a win.

“The girls did great,” Huskies coach Rob Parish said. “I crushed them in practice. We were excited about the home race, but we have the big picture in mind. They did not go in rested.”

Battle Mountain was also missing Christina Shearon, who was attending a family wedding. That gave Parish an opportunity to look at other runners, which is always good.

“One of the barometers for our success will be how well we develop the depth of our girls,” Parish said. “Just like any other sport, it’s important to have some depth to sustain any setbacks. Our focus is on who’s eager to step into the at fifth, sixth and seventh spot.”

For Eagle Valley’s ladies, it was Samantha Maddox (seventh), Nikki Cunning (eighth), Chantel Willoughby (ninth), Gabriela Avila (13th) and Mindy Alderete (20th).

Battle Mountain is at Heritage Friday, while Eagle Valley hosts its own meet Saturday and the Gypsum Creek Golf Course. The schedule for that is kids’ races at 8:15 a.m., followed by the Devils Dash, a citizen’s 5K, at 8:45 a.m. The boys run at 9:45 a.m., followed by the ladies at 10:30 a.m.

After Saturday’s Battle Mountain Invitational, there was the Eric Spry Memorial Race, an open 5K race which was well-attended, including the presence of a bunch of Huskies alumni.

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