Boys harriers take it all
COLORADO SPRINGS – Crank up Queen. The Battle Mountain boys’ cross country team is the best team in the state in Class 4A. “It was pretty amazing. … The first song we listened to on the bus was ‘We are the Champions,'” said Jessica Linder of the Battle Mountain girls’ team. “It was awesome to stand there and see the guys win state because they really deserved it. They worked hard all season.”All season. All year, and in the previous years, dating back to the days of Rob Finlay, Grant Stevenson and Shea Phelan. All that work came together as the Huskies scored 156 points Saturday at the state meet to smash Niwot (203).”It’s awesome. It’s just surreal,” said Jonny Stevens, who led the Huskies in sixth place with a time of 16 minutes, 47 seconds. “It hasn’t hit me yet.””It feels so amazing to win something as the top (team) of the state,” said Huskies No. 2 runner Tony Crisofulli. “It’s just a very awesome feeling.”Those two, along with Jamie Farhmeyer, Colt Nelson, Mario Gonzalez, Ryan Walker, John O’Neill and Lorenzo Macias, go down as the first boys’ cross country team to win a state title for Battle Mountain. And this comes just one year after their female counterparts did the same, at that time only the second nonskiing state title in school history.”They’re very similar and equally special,” Huskies coach Rob Parish said, speaking like a proud father of two children. “Both are very special groups of kids. They’re similar in that the kids have some good runners on their teams, but both groups didn’t get anything handed to them. Both put in a lot of time, came together as groups and had to do all the work to make it come true.”Saturday was no dream, though you could forgive Huskies Nation for having a case of deja vu with a state cross country title, a volleyball district title and a huge second-round state playoff win for boys’ soccer all in the same day for the second year in a row.But this one was extra special as girls’ cross country, having lost four of its five state-scoring runners and eight of its top-10 athletes from last year’s championship squad, nevertheless finished an amazing seventh. “For as well as the guys did, and all the accolades that go along with the state championship, the girls getting seventh place is equally impressive,” said Parish, who coaches the team with Kelly Witter. “The girls peaked at the exact right time.”
With heavy snow on the Front Range having fallen Wednesday, the Vineyard Golf Course/El Pomar Youth Sports Complex was a sloppy track. But as the name Battle Mountain implies, that wasn’t an issue for the Huskies.After all, they had met up with similar conditions the last two weeks at the Battle Mountain Invitational and regionals, both in Eagle-Vail. “I’m sure it helped us,” Molly McGee said. “During the race we all heard the other girls going around the puddles while we were running though them.”Though times weren’t as low as they would have been under dry conditions, the Huskies had no problems.Stevens battled though running what Parish called “a strategically perfect race.” Considering a foot injury from which the junior has been recovering all year, sixth in the state and coming in under 17 minutes was a command performance.By finishing in the top 10, Stevens is all-state for the second straight year. He also completed the athletic requirements to go up on the school’s Wall of Fame. Having garnered all-league honors in hockey and won a state title as part of the cross country team, if Stevens continues his current pace in the classroom, he’ll go up on the wall in the spring of 2008.”It’s exciting. I was talking to Shea about it when Connor (Drumm) got it (last year),” Stevens said. “That’s a really cool thing. You can get a school record, and then some kid 10 years from now and crushes the record. You’ll always be on the wall.”Speaking of breaking records, Stevens’ 16: 47 was just 15 seconds behind the school record cross country time held by Stevenson. “Grant lives to see another day,” Parish joked.
Parish called Crisofulli “undoubtedly the hero of the day.” Normally the fourth or fifth runner on the team, the junior was second with a sizzling 17:12.”I was focused,” Crisofulli said. “I felt very strong in training during peak week. I had a lot of energy.”The sea of yellow continued with Farhmeyer (29th, 17:29), Nelson (46th, 17:42) and Gonzalez (57th, 17:54). For the last of the trio, Saturday marked a continued rise. Gonzalez started the year on the JV team with whom he won three races. He got promoted late in the season and ended up scoring state points.”Mario is incredibly talented, and he’s an incredibly hard worker,” Parish said. “But at the same time, it was a situation where he was needed and the expectation was high. The training has done him well. He’s very talented, but he’s really improved.”Walker punched in at 18:17 in 77th. O’Neill rounded out the state champs at 18:33 in 101st.”John would have been the fourth or fifth runner for any other team in the state,” Parish said.
Though the Huskies were bunched in terms of time, the state field proved tough. Farhmeyer and Nelson were just 13 seconds apart, but separated by 17 places. Throughout the week leading up to the meet, Parish preached that every second counted.Parish started to think that good things were happening when the team hit the 2-mile mark and started passing runners. But even at the finish, the Huskies didn’t know.”We knew we had done well, but I didn’t want to hazard a guess,” Parish said.”We came out of the finish area to where it starts, and I don’t think we said one word,” Stevens said.The Huskies got the good news from a Denver Post reporter and the celebration was on.”It was an emotional moment,” Parish said. “It was filled with joy and relief and satisfaction of all this hard work culminating in this moment that all of us had worked so hard to achieve. It was just jubilant.””Once we found out that we were state champs there were people crying,” Crisofulli said. “We were so happy and so excited with how we did.”
Not to be overshadowed was the girls’ team. The ladies won state last year, but was creamed by graduation and injury. The girls started the season slowly, but finished with a flurry.Saturday the team’s runners cut 3-4 minutes off their time from the first meet of the season, also held on the state course, in finishing seventh. In the last three seasons, the girls have finished fifth, first and seventh in the state.”It just shows the depth and the character of the team, how much effort we’ll put in for each other,” senior McGee said. “Even this year, we had four girls for the last places on the varsity team.”New faces were in familiar places at the state meet. Sophomore Linder took 12th in her first state meet, coming in at 20:27.”I was nervous, but I was really excited,” Linder said. “All the girls were really supportive of each other. … “It’s amazing. We had our hopes set for how we were going to finish in state, but we weren’t sure how we had finished in the race. A lot of the girls worried if they had lost it for the team. But we were all confident that we did pretty well.”McGee was no stranger to the state meet, competing for her fourth and final year. McGee wrapped a magnificent cross country career with a 51st-place finish with a time of 21:22.”I can’t say enough wonderful glowing things about Molly McGee,” Parish said. “She’s anchored our team for the last four years. She’s the heart and soul of our team. She’s epitomizes the growth of our team.”Cecelia Garcia (80th, 21:52), Kenzie Grant (83rd, 21:57), McKenzie Stevens (96th, 22:18), Heidi Sorenson (115th, 22:48) and Marit Johnson (119th, 22:57) rounded out a great performance for the Huskies.
There’s a very good chance. The boys only lose Nelson to graduation. Macias, who missed the state meet because of a stress fracture, has the step upon that spot. The girls will lose McGee and Johnson. If the girls’ resilience is any indication, both teams should be back contending in Colorado Springs next year.”With repeated success, we now have everybody’s attention,” Parish said. “Hopefully, we will be viewed as a program that no matter who is coming to run that people will pay attention to what we’re doing. I think we’re at that point.”The kids believe in the program. That’s the key point. They not only do the workouts, but they believe it’s going to make them better at the end. The first comment I had on the bus was ‘Thank you for believing in the program and your teammates.'”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.
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