Vail Valley Running Club qualifies for nationals again | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Running Club qualifies for nationals again

The Vail Valley Running Club, aka Battle Mountain girls cross-country, is returning to nationals after finishing second at Saturday, Nov. 17' Nike Cross Regionals Southwest in Casa Grande, Arizona.

CASA GRANDE, Arizona — Take that, Niwot.

Running under the appellation of the Vail Valley Running Club to appease CHSAA rules, Battle Mountain girls cross-country took second at Saturday, Nov. 17's Nike Cross Regionals Southwest Girls Championship in Arizona, to earn a spot for the second straight season at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon, in two weeks.

Finishing only behind Vista Nation, aka 5A state champion Mountain Vista, the Huskies/VVRC beat out Niwot/Real Training by five points for that second automatic berth to the West Coast. That was sweet after Niwot had knocked off Battle Mountain at the 4A state meet two weeks ago in Colorado Springs.

"Omigosh, we were just so hungry coming out of state," VVRC's Naomi Harding said. "We were out to make our season two weeks longer. We're very happy with ourselves."

As well they should be.

That was just a part of a big day in Arizona, where both the Vail Valley Running Club and the Eagle Valley Track Club — yes, quite well disguised — made themselves feel at home in the desert against schools from Colorado, Utah, Nevada Arizona and New Mexico.

Recommended Stories For You

Not only did the VVRC girls qualify for nationals, but:

• Eagle Valley's big three of Joslin Blair, Avery Doan and Samantha Blair, running as Unaffiliated Colorado, threw down in the Girls Championship Race.

• Battle Mountain's boys team won the Small School Race by a whopping 61 points, while Eagle Valley's gents were fifth in that division.

• Battle Mountain's "second" girls team also won the Small School Race.

"For a county of 59,000, Eagle County represents pretty well," said EVTC coach Charlie Janssen in what will likely go down as the understatement of the year. "We're going up against some of the best programs in the country in this region."

Huskies run fast, deep

Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico aren't the most populous states in the union, but with the altitude of the region makes it a hotbed of distance running.

And when athletes from the Rockies come down to the paltry elevation of 1,398 feet in Casa Grande, well, the times are going to be stunning.

Huskies alumna Elizabeth Constien held the fastest 5K time run by a Battle Mountain athlete with a time of 17 minutes, 46 seconds at last year's Nike Regionals. Harding surpassed that with a 17:45 on Saturday with Grace Johnson at 17:46.

And every tick of the clock was critical. A five-point margin between second and third place with a national berth on the line is precarious.

"We've known all along that Niwot is so strong," VVRC coach Rob Parish said. "They have a tremendous team. In a race this big, five points is a coin flip."

Be it heads or tails, though, the Huskies found a way to win. Naomi Harding, Johnson and Lizzy Harding were their stellar selves. And then there were sophomores Elliott Pribramsky and Emma Reeder, who raced as veterans.

"It's crazy," Naomi Harding said. "We lost three girls (to graduation in Constien, Alex Raichart and Megan Rossman), and Elliott and Emma just make up those spots. I'm so proud of them. They've put in so much work. They've shown that they can be a part of this team."

As if to emphasize that point, Battle Mountain's ladies also won the Girls Small School (1,000 and fewer) race. With the stipulation that Battle Mountain girls varsity cross-country is a hard nut to crack — Colorado state champions in 2016 and 2017 as well as eight-time-defending regional champions — the Huskies JV team beat varsity squads across five states on Saturday.

Of the Huskies' five scorers in the Girls Small School event, only one (Celia Badger) is a senior.

Oxygen is nice

Nike Regionals is a double-edged sword for both Eagle County squads. Coming down to 1,398 feet is a huge advantage oxygen-wise.

The problem can be heat. Battle Mountain had a workout early morning on Wednesday, Nov. 14, in Edwards. It was 12 degrees.

Both the Huskies and Devils may have caught a break on Saturday as temperatures were in the 60s, as opposed to the usual 80s in Arizona.

In the Girls Championship, held at noon, Eagle Valley's Blair sisters and Doan had relatively comfortable conditions. Joslin finished 13th, earning second-team, all-region honors, yet another line in her every growing resume.

Meanwhile, Doan finished her Eagle Valley cross-country career in style.

"She was out for blood," Janssen said. "She had a great first mile and was able to make it stick.

In the Small School Boys race, the locals put on a show. In addition to finishing fifth, four of Eagle Valley's top six logged personal bests. As for Battle Mountain, the Huskies smacked the field, showing that promising days are ahead.

The guys had all five of their scorers under 16:30 — blessed oxygen. At 16:21, Battle Mountain freshman Sullivan Middaugh recorded the second-fastest time by a freshman at the entire meet and won the Rising Star Award.

Nike Cross Regionals Southwest

Girls Championship

Team results

1. Vista Nation, 88; 2. Vail Valley Running Club 135; 3. Real Training, 140; 4. Lone Peak (Utah) 141; 4. Pikes Peak 206.

Individual results

13. Joslin Blair, Colorado unaffiliated, 17:42

19. Naomi Harding, VVRC, 17:45

21. Grace Johnson, VVRC, 17:46

43. Lizzy Harding, VVRC, 18:05

50. Elliott Pribramsky, VVRC, 18:18

60. Avery Doan, Colorado unaffiliated, 18:23

82. Samantha Blair, Colorado unaffiliated, 18:38

83. Emma Reeder, VVRC, 18:38

Girls Small School

Team results

1. Vail Valley Running Club 75; 2. Ruby Mountain (Nevada) 82; 3. FAST 97; 4. Desert Runners (Arizona) 160; 5. Pikes Peak 162.

Individual results

19. Josephine Trueblood, VVRC, 19:13

20. Samantha Lindall, VVRC, 19:17

22. Hayley Diemar, VVRC, 19:22

29. Amalia Manning, VVRC, 19:37

38. Celia Badger, VVRC, 20:00

70. Gabby Fuentes, EVTC, 20:57

97. Jordan Neifert, EVTC, 21:38

Boys Small School

Team results

1. Vail Valley Running Club 59; 2. LacedUp 120; 3. Peak Racing 127; 4. Pikes Peak 178; 5. Eagle Valley Track Club 196.

Individual results

9. Nico Piliero, VVRC, 16:01

18. Jason Macaluso, VVRC, 16:20

21. Sullivan Middaugh, VVRC, 16:21

22. David Reilly, VVRC, 16:23

29. Jake Allen, VVRC, 16:29

35. Carter Baker, EVTC, 16:35

56. Bailey Beckum, EVTC, 16:52

61. Gage Nielsen, EVTC, 16:57

67. John Papadopoulos, EVTC, 17:02

91. Matthew Grewe, EVTC, 17:17