Blair, Nielsen lead the way for Eagle Valley XC | VailDaily.com
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Blair, Nielsen lead the way for Eagle Valley XC

Devils head to Battle Mountain Invite this weekend

Not surprisingly, Eagle Valley's Samantha Blair is already in the win column this year after taking the top sport in a meet in Grand Junction.
Daily file photo

It’s really not a good idea to tempt the fates these days.

“Saturday, we planned to meet at the Eagle River water park,” Eagle Valley cross-country coach Melinda Brandt said. “I thought it would be fun as a team to jump in the river. It ended up raining and there was a flash-flood warning.”

After the coronavirus and wildfires and a flash-flood warning — the swimming outing was called off — there will be no jokes about the locusts being next.

Despite the seemingly biblical end of days, Devils cross-country is doing fine, adjusting to all these obstacles.

Whether it’s driving the long way around Glenwood Canyon to get to a meet in Grand Junction during the fire, juggling a new meet schedule or getting up for practices at 5:30 a.m., “the entire program is rising” to the occasion(s), according to coach Brandt.

Blair, Nielsen shine in Junction

With the traditional Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, aka pre-state, scrubbed, the projected aces of the team, junior Samantha Blair and senior Gage Nielsen, went to the Warrior at Machett Park in Grand Junction on Aug. 23 in search of quick times.

Eagle Valley’s Gage Nielsen is off to a hot start after finishing fourth in a meet in Grand Junction. (Daily file photo)
Special to the Daily

The duo did nothing to dispel their ace status. Blair, who started the year ranked No. 23 in the Milesplit 50, the best in the nation, clocked a time of 17 minutes, 20 seconds for the win. She was 19 seconds ahead of Fruita Monument’s Jadyn Heil.

Nielsen came around in 16:28, good for fourth place.

Meanwhile in Summit …

The majority of Eagle Valley’s team was competing in the Summit Wildfire Dual, an impromptu event that allowed the Devils and Tigers to hold their first races of the season.

Jack Drever, Lukas Berger and Ferguson St. John led the way. All three are returnees to the team, and it looks like Dillon Flaagan and Charlie Shafer will join them this weekend, making for a good crew with Nielsen. Keep an eye on Cooper Filmore, too.

Meanwhile, Jordan Neifert won the girls’ race with Lucy McCann and Gabriella Fuentes in tow. Reinforcements are also on the way for the ladies.

Fresh-person Ellie Shroll and junior Stacia Baker appear to be forcing the issue. While it’s hard to believe that a Shroll is affiliated with Eagle Valley running, Baker is coming off a back injury last year and ready to contribute.

The names you know

Eagle Valley heads to the Battle Mountain Invitational this weekend at Minturn’s Maloit Park. Not only is this the first head-to-head between the two local rivals, but Niwot is coming to town.

On the girls’ side, that means Samrawit Dishon, the defending state champion, will face off against Blair, who took third in 4A last season. Even in a shortened season, this will not be the decisive moment, but it’s definitely worth a look-see.

The boys run at 10 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the girls at 10:45 a.m. Spectators are welcome, though social distancing and masks are a must.

In other news, Eagle Valley alumna Joslin Blair recently made Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” section for defending her title at the World Mountain Running Association International Youth Cup in Salida this summer. Blair is starting her first year of studies this fall at Vanderbilt.


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