Devils, Huskies XC sends four teams
DELTA – Though there’s a big football game Friday, and a soccer match tonight between the two schools, the Devils and Huskies can agree on one thing.
Load up the bus. Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley cross county have huge contingents for next week’s state meet down in Colorado Springs after Wednesday’s regional meet in Delta.
Battle Mountain’s girls are back-to-back regional champs. Eagle Valley’s boys posted their best finish – second – in the five-year history of the program. The Huskies boys are back at state after not qualifying as a team last year. And the Devils girls qualified for the first time in school history.
That would make for a pretty good Wednesday.
On Monday, Huskies running coach Rob Parish had all nine of his girls regional runners pick index cards with random numbers. The exercise was repeated. The basic point was that it didn’t matter who finished in what spot in Wednesday’s race. It just mattered that the Huskies do it as a team.
“A regional championship is awesome,” Huskies junior Sydney Gaylord said. “I’m so glad to be here for the second time. Definitely, the competition was way harder than last year, but I think our team has come so far, too.”
As an example of the index-card exercise, Val Constien was Battle Mountain’s top runner in fourth place with a time of 18 minutes 50 seconds. Mandy Ortiz, usually the team’s top finisher, was right behind her in sixth (19:00).
Gaylord made it three in the top 10 in eighth (19:11). (She got Parish’s traditional “hero of the day” honor.)
Christina Shearon (12th, 19:47) and Bridgett Courtois (19th, 20:12) gave the ladies their third regional title in school history. Battle Mountain also has a golden plaque from 2005.
“It was a new challenge for these girls to be the favored team,” Parish said. “Having a bull’s eye on their back posed challenges. This team always had big goals and aspirations. They came out and executed.”
Eagle Valley has runners named Bob and Nathan. Bob is actually Samantha Maddox, a senior, and Nathan, a junior, is actually the Maddox who runs for the Eagle Valley boys cross country team.
How Samantha got the nickname Bob we don’t know, but Nathan’s big day translated into a huge one for the Devils. Gregg Salaz (16:34), Hunter Burnham (16:37) and Nathan Maddox (16:40) went 3-4-5, and all finished at 16:40 or faster as the gents took second place, only 10 points behind regional winner, Durango.
“Today felt really good,” said Maddox, who won the boys’ Hoss Award. “I had all that adrenaline from regionals at around Mile No. 2. It was pack running. It felt great knowing that we were 3-4-5, coming in right after each other. The next finisher from Delta wasn’t close at all.”
Rafael Gurule (17:26) and Will Thrasher rounded out the scoring. Remember that last year, the Devils squeezed into the fourth and final spot. This year, they had room to spare.
“Nathan didn’t go under 17. He crushed it,” Devils coach Melinda Brandt said. “Those three ran perfectly. Rafa was a huge guy for us. He beat the guys around him. We’re stoked. This year, we want to be top 10 at state.”
OK, Jonny Stevens, Tony Crisofulli and John O’Neill aren’t dead, but if they were, they could stop spinning in their graves.
The Battle Mountain boys are back in state after taking third Wednesday. The Huskies missed state last year after appearing from 2003-2010.
“They’ve been pushing hard to get back to this point and they have righted the ship,” Parish said. “There’s a lot of history with this program and they took on the responsibility.”
Battle Mountain’s scorers finished within 36 seconds of each other. Joe Barrett finished in 17:07, followed by Ethan Pence (17:28), David Suarez (17:30), Cameron Moore (17:33) and Josh Braun (17:43).
Suarez becomes the answer to a trivia question in that he is a four-time state qualifier from that bunch. He went as an individual last year, but is delighted to have some company this fall.
“Without a team? That felt horrible,” Suarez said. “Going with a team, you always know someone’s there to support you.”
Eagle Valley’s Chantal Willoughby really didn’t like how her race was going Wednesday.
“I actually didn’t think I was doing that well,” she said. “I thought I was way behind pace.”
Actually, she finished in 19:13, obliterating the old school record, won the girls’ Hoss Award and took 11th, helping the Devils ladies to their first team berth at state.
“I was shocked,” Willoughby said.
It’s good kind of shocked. Gabriella Avila was 17th in 20:10, followed by Nikki Cunning (22nd, 20:28) Samantha (Bob) Maddox (31st, 20:55) and Tyler Beckum (40th, 21:18).
And this makes it the first time in the brief history of Eagle Valley that the school is sending two teams to the big dance.
“We’ve definitely been waiting for this,” Brandt said. “Kids have been telling me, ‘We’re taking a big bus.’ We’ve established a running culture here, and everyone’s buying in. There’s no locking back from here.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.