Battle Mountain Huskies and the Eagle Valley Devils prepare for state race in Colorado Springs | VailDaily.com

Battle Mountain Huskies and the Eagle Valley Devils prepare for state race in Colorado Springs

So, according to milesplit.com, Saturday, Oct. 28's 4A state cross-country meet is pretty much an open-and-shut case.

It's the Battle Mountain High School ladies' race to lose.

Yet before the Huskies accept the trophy, they really do have to run the race. So to Colorado Springs they go with the Norris Penrose Events Center as the site on Saturday, Oct. 28. The 4A ladies run at noon. Eagle Valley's boys run at 1:20 p.m.

Defending the crown

“We talked about being focused on the task at hand. We’ve been enjoying the journey and the ride and taking care of business. We’ve never set a goal of trying to be undefeated. ”Rob ParishHuskies coach

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Yes, the Huskies are the defending state champions. Yes, the team is loaded to the hilt with talent. Yes, the team is undefeated against 4A competition all season.

The race still remains.

"We talked about being focused on the task at hand," said Huskies coach Rob Parish. "We've been enjoying the journey and the ride and taking care of business. We've never set a goal of trying to be undefeated. Yeah, they haven't lost when they've raced 4A teams. The entire year, they've faced substantial pressure. Now we're at the point where they're excited to defend their title."

When last the Huskies were running, they were coughing and sneezing their way to their seventh regional title in Frisco.

Everyone is feeling better and the state lineup is set. The names are familiar — Naomi Harding, Elizabeth Constien, Lizzy Harding, Alex Raichart, Grace Johnson, Megan Bamford and Brogan Murray.

If there is any concern coming off regionals, then it is Lizzy Harding, which is a strange thing to write. Lizzy Harding was Battle Mountain's sixth runner at regionals, albeit finishing 14th at that meet, nothing at which to sneeze.

It's just that Lizzy Harding is usually with Naomi Harding and Constien when it comes to the finish order. Parish said that result was a combination of three factors — the aforementioned flu, Lizzy Harding taking it out too quickly, particularly during the second lap of the three-lap course, and the altitude.

And this brings up a key factor for the state race. The emphasis this week in Battle Mountain practice has been avoiding the superhero complex.

"This meet goes well if all our girls run to their potential," Parish said. "All the girls just need to do their jobs, nothing out of the ordinary. If all the runners do their part, they're very aware that they're better as a team than individuals."

While Battle Mountain will be running with a collective target on its back, the Huskies will be looking out for Durango, Air Academy, Palmer Ridge, Niwot and Valor Christian.

History

There is a parallel for the Battle Mountain girls' quest. It just happens to be the Battle Mountain boys from 2006-07. The gents scored the upset in 2006 to win the big prize, and returned everyone (and more — we'll get to it) in 2007.

Those Huskies cruised to a repeat title, a cause not hurt by the emergence of John O'Neill, who started 2006 as a JV runner.

If history repeats itself, then it's Bamford and Murray who combine to become the O'Neill. And both have had their moments this season. Bamford has emerged as one of the team's most consistent runners, while Murray was the key sixth-place finisher at the Pat Patten Invitational in Boulder, where the Huskies beat 5A Broomfield.

More history?

The best finish by an Eagle Valley cross-country team at state is 15th place. Bettering that — along with running down Evergreen — would be this week's talking points.

"The want to be the best that ever walked the halls at Eagle Valley," Devils coach Melinda Brandt said. "We've been having a good week of practice. They're having fun and they run their best having fun."

The Devils' state seven are Aiden Branch, Jack Neifert, Carter Baker, Bailey Beckum, Emerson Betz, Luke Morrissey and John Papadopoulos.

Then, there's Joslin Blair, who along with Battle Mountain's David Reilly, qualified last week as an individual.

It's tough running without one's team at state, but Blair finished 14th last year as a fresh-person.

"Joslin wants to be on the podium (top 10), and that's a very attainable goal," Brandt said. "She has a lot of experience running with the best girls in the state. Most of them come from our region."

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