Huskies, Blair off to Niwot Invite, aka state | VailDaily.com
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Huskies, Blair off to Niwot Invite, aka state

Can someone beat the Cougars?

Eagle Valley's Samantha Blair, right, doesn't have to face Naomi Harding at state, but will see Niwot's Mia Prok and Air Academy's Bethany Michalak on Saturday.
Chris Dillmann | Daily file photo

Niwot is a high school located in the St. Vrain Valley School District. It seems like a nice enough place, except when it comes to running.

This is one of those rare moments when Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley agree on something.

Yes, it’s the state cross-country meet and green and black are not Summit’s colors, but those of the evil — heck, we’re sure they’re nice people — Niwot Cougars.

Battle Mountain girls cross-country has finished second at state the past two state meets … to Niwot. Eagle Valley’s Samantha and Joslin Blair finished second and third, individually, at last year’s state meet … to Niwot’s Samrawit Dishon.

Battle Mountain’s boys finished eighth last season. The winning team? Yep, Niwot.

That is the task for Battle Mountain’s cross-country teams as well as Eagle Valley’s Samantha Blair (everyone say hi to Joslin at Vanderbilt) — run down Niwot at Saturday’s 4A state meet at the Norris-Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs. The boys race at 9:45 a.m., followed by the girls at 10:30.

Operation Niwot

The virtual meet on milesplit.com has been run. Niwot is 40-point favorite over Battle Mountain’s girls.

Battle Mountain’s girls are making their 16th state appearance in the last 17 years. (Mark Pribramsky | Daily file photo)
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“I can’t remember the last time we were favorites in the virtual meet at state,” Huskies coach Rob Parish said.

Actually, it was 2017, Coach. And, yes, the Huskies girls won the second of two consecutive state titles. But this is part of a theme. In 2005, 2006, 2007, 2016 and 2017, years in which Battle Mountain won state titles, the Huskies were underdogs.

And, even if they were favored in 2017, darn the facts, Battle Mountain has an agenda to drive.

“One-hundred percent, we are the underdog,” Parish said. “We also can’t control what everyone else does. We do know that our crew is running well right now.”

So, of course, there’s really no point to competing, except that the Huskies have already made plans for a workout in the Garden of the Gods today and have a team dinner later this evening, so they probably should go to the state meet.

As with any sporting event, state cross-country has a different look due to COVID-19. Runners will be split into waves. This is one of many ways the predicted result of state can be blown into smithereens. Yes, the 25-fastest runners from regionals are in the first wave, but what if someone from the second or third wave goes off and throws everything into confusion?

Well, that’s sort of the plan for Battle Mountain’s girls. Yes, Elliot Pribramsky and Milaina Almonte are in the first wave with Lily Wheelan, Hayley Brewster, Lindsey Kiehl and Lindsey Whitton in the second.

Can Pribramsky and Almonte stay with their Niwot assignments in wave No. 1, while the Huskies’ quartet in the second heat dial up the pressure by beating its Cougars’ opponents in their race, and also racing the clock?

“State meets never go according to plan,” Parish said. “Usually one of the top few teams or individuals cracks in the pressure-filled environment. A few go out too fast.”

Parish should know. The Battle Mountain ladies are making their 16th appearance in 17 years at state (2009).

Operation Niwot and Air Academy

Niwot’s Dishon won it all last year and graduated — thankfully. Unfortunately for the entire Blair family, Mia Prok is a new freshman at Niwot and she and Air Academy’s Bethany Michalak, also a first-year, are the co-favorites.

Perhaps, now the Blair family is starting to realize how the rest of the state felt when Blair sisters were froshes. Prok bested Samantha Blair at the Battle Mountain Invite at Maloit Park last month. Michalak and Blair have not met in a high school race.

There are two things to remember about Blair’s chances. First, never tell a Blair that she can’t do it. That’s a bad idea. There’s also the fact that Blair hasn’t really run a varsity race on a fast course this season. She had a speed race down in Grand Junction during the opening week of the season, but since then, she’s been running on hilly, technical courses like Maloit Park and Gypsum Creek.

Comparison are odious, but when comparing Blair sisters, Joslin was the better long-distance runner, while Samantha is better at speed. The Eagle Valley junior has another gear. Just keep an eye out for her.

Operation Niwot … again

When looking at the Huskies boys, maybe, we want to turn the clock a year forward. Battle Mountain is young and talented and should be a force in one year.

But it’s this year and the Huskies not quite ready for next year.

“Not to put the cart ahead of the horse, but the guys are ready to run fast,” Parish said. “We’re not putting the pressure on them to be at the top of the race. They have the goal of being top five which is a good one considering that Niwot and Cheyenne Mountain are both very, very good.”


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