Huskies put on a show at state
COLORADO SPRINGS ” The Battle Mountain boys’ cross county team knew it had a good race at Saturday’s 4A state meet. But none of the Huskies wanted to say anything until they were sure.
The teams come in at a blur. Three years ago, the fifth-place Battle Mountain girls incorrectly were given a card saying they were third. Sometimes, other schools not expected to compete jump into the fray, like second-place Niwot last year.
“Individually, they ran the best race they could, but without knowing how the scores lined up and how everyone else did, you don’t know,” Huskies coach Rob Parish said. “In my gut, I thought we got it.”
A series of discreet thumbs-up signs confirmed Parish’s hunch and what just about everyone who saw Saturday’s race knew ” the Huskies are back-to-back 4A state champions.
“That’s nuts. I’m at a loss for words,” said Jonny Stevens, who took fourth in the race with a time of 16 minutes, 42 seconds. “I don’t know when it’s going to hit me.”
“It feels so good to win the state title again, especially because most of us are seniors,” Tony Crisofulli (17th, 17:14) said. “We finished off our last season with a bang.”
“On top of the world, that’s for sure,” chirped John O’Neill (sixth, 16:47) “Cloud Nine, all sorts of that good stuff.”
They did what?
Looking at the final results, one wonders why the Huskies fretted at all. Not only did they repeat ” a tremendous feat in itself ” but they simply blitzed the field.
Last year, the Huskies earned the state title with 156 points, ahead of Niwot (202). Saturday, the Huskies sank to just 55 points, outdistancing a Liberty (111). An excellent squad, the Lancers were simply running during the wrong year.
This was the equivalent of a football team going into a state-title game and winning, 56-7. This was domination in every way fathomable.
“We came across (the finish line), and it was all yellow,” Stevens said referring to the team’s postseason tops.
If Battle Mountain doubled its score, it still would have brought home the state title. Though there’s no official record for fewest points scored in state meet, in the last eight years in 4A, the lowest number was 60 by Denver South. As it turns out, a good portion of the team’s goal-setting meeting earlier in the week was devoted to cracking the 60-point barrier.
“Never once were they satisfied with where they were,” Parish said. “They had a great race last year. They came back and could have said easily, ‘We did what we did last year and we were successful in that, so we’re going to do the same thing this year.’ But they asked so much more of themselves and they were able to do even more.”
The Huskies packed five runners into the top-26 sports. With Stevens fourth and O’Neill sixth, Crisofulli followed with 17th. Jamie Fahrmeyer was 18th in 17:15 and Mario Gonzalez 26th (17:24).
Last year, Fahrmeyer was 29th for third on the team, while Gonzalez rounded out the scoring (fifth for Battle Mountain) in 57th. O’Neill went from 101st in 2006 (18:33) to sixth in the state in 2007. Juniors Conor Wallace and Andrew Hill didn’t score for Battle Mountain, but still finished 71st (18:03) and 79th (18:11), respectively.
These guys were clearly not content with last year’s state win, not to mention holding down the No. 1 spot in the Front Range papers’ polls all this season.
“We didn’t take it to heart,” said Fahrmeyer, an Eagle Valley senior who made the commute to Eagle-Vail every day for the last three falls. “Basically, we didn’t go overboard, talking about it, bragging about it. We kept it low. We made sure we knew we weren’t the No. 1 team until we won.
“A lot of work went into this, a lot of track workouts, speed workouts, distances. Don’t miss a practice. It’s going to hit you hard if you do. It feels awesome. It feels definitely worth it.”
The average time of a Battle Mountain runner was 17:04, a full 21 seconds per runner faster than Liberty. The 4A Huskies knocked off every other school in the state regardless of classification except for 5A champion Wheat Ridge (16:54) in this category.
Not bad for a program that was on life support when Parish and assistant coach Kelli Witter took over in 2001.
“Kelli and I talked a lot about this type of accomplishment,” Parish said. “When we started (as coaches), this was not on the radar at all. We were just trying to get our kids to run and finish workouts and run to Shop-n-Hop and back. Those were the goals then. You start to realize what it is they have done.”
Parish had a pretty good idea coming into Saturday’s meet that something special was brewing. The Huskies had clobbered the elite of the 4A field ” Liberty, Niwot, D’Evelyn and Denver North ” just three weeks ago at the Centerra Classic in Fort Collins.
The nightmare scenario of a messy start nearly materialized, though. Last year’s individual champion, Joshy Manilafasha of Denver North, tumbled in the bottle-neck section of the course just after the start.
The Huskies, who went out with the front of the pack and Manilafasha, avoided danger and started into their race plan.
“We knew what we had to do,” Stevens said. “We had run (this course) before. This is about eight times. It was fun.”
The Huskies had little problem with the Vineyard Golf Course. The two so-called steeps were nothing compared to the repeats the team had done early and often at the Willow Creek Par-3.
Surprisingly through a cacophony of noise on the course, the team could hear Parish barking out splits.
“You run through a group of people and you hear so much stuff, but you can pick out Parish’s voice out of a million,” O’Neill said. “You get so used to hearing that wherever you go. He was everywhere.”
In retrospect, the Huskies could have probably shed a few places in the grueling 400-meter sprint to the finish. The Huskies left nothing to chance, fighting to the end for points which ended up being icing on the cake.
Stevens picked off Mullen’s Andrew Berbrick. O’Neill bested the top runners from Cherokee Trail (Scott Ingram), Liberty (Tim Hamilton) and Alamosa (Tom Owens). Crisofulli and Fahrmeyer squeezed past six other No. 1 runners from other schools, but more importantly were eight and seven spots, respectively, ahead of Liberty’s third runner, Chris Claffin in 25th. Gonzalez, as the Huskies fifth, was one spot behind Claffin in 26th.
And with that, the Huskies retreated behind the finish area to wait for the news.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.